Pharyngula

Colleen Leduc has an autistic child named Victoria who is enrolled in a public school. She recently got a terrifying phone call — her daughter was being sexually abused. We parents know well the fear and worry a threat to our children can cause, and Leduc was receiving an urgent, frantic phone call from school officials telling her that her daughter was being victimized in the worst way.

So she rushes in to this little meeting.

“The teacher looked and me and said: ‘We have to tell you something. The educational assistant who works with Victoria went to see a psychic last night, and the psychic asked the educational assistant at that particular time if she works with a little girl by the name of “V.” And she said ‘yes, I do.’ And she said, ‘well, you need to know that that child is being sexually abused by a man between the ages of 23 and 26.’”

Let’s make it worse. Reports of sexual abuse must be reported to Children’s Aid, even if it is merely a stupid remark by a credulous gawp of an aid, built on the dishonest bilking of a con artist. So Leduc now has a file opened on her and is being investigated.

I am astounded.

That educational assistant who made such a ghastly accusation on the basis of no evidence at all should have been immediately warned that she would be fired for spreading false rumors like that. The administrators at that school who took such idiocy seriously ought to be removed from their position of trust — they are clearly unreliable. The government officials should not be harrassing Ms Leduc — rather, they ought to hunt down and fine the creepy scammer with the pathetic letter-guessing psychic fraud scheme.

Or, if they aren’t going to do that, maybe we should start our own stupid rumor that Terry Fox Elementary School has a network of secret tunnels where children are sodomized by teachers and shut the school down and put the personnel through living hell. Live by gullibility, die by gullibility. All’s fair, right?

This is what happens when a culture tells people that reason and evidence are optional, and faith is touted as a virtue. I’m sure that educational assistant thought she was doing a good thing and was trying to protect Victoria…but the filters had been stripped from her brain, she had no tools to make rational assessments of the evidence, and so she charged in to do something vile and destructive, instead.

(via)

Comments

  1. #1 weemaryanne
    June 19, 2008

    Oh, for the love of Cthulhu. I remember the ghastly satanism-in-daycares idiocy of the early 1980s, is it starting all over again now?

  2. #2 Dancaban
    June 19, 2008

    You may be astounded but I’m gob smacked. As a parent myself if this ever happened to any of my children I’d hammer it down PDQ. Educational assistant + psychic = headless chicken!

  3. #3 Sigmund
    June 19, 2008

    It just shows you have to make sure you don’t take the advice of fake psychics. Insist on real psychics.
    By the way, its not just in the US that critical thinking skills are lacking. Its pretty bad in the UK too.
    http://tinyurl.com/2noy3n

  4. #4 Paholaisen Asianajaja
    June 19, 2008

    I had to read it twice, because I first read ‘psychic’ as in psychology.

  5. #5 Jason
    June 19, 2008

    http://www.citynews.ca/news/news_23845.aspx

    This is the article – it’s worth noting:

    And so a case worker came to the Leduc home to discuss the allegations of sexual misconduct, only to admit there wasn’t a shred of evidence that anything had ever happened at all. They labelled Leduc a “diligent” mother doing the best she could for her child under difficult circumstances, closed the file and left, calling the report “ridiculous.”

    So not everyone in this case is crazily ridiculous.

  6. #6 DaveX
    June 19, 2008

    The whole system for reporting child abuse is pretty much f**ked, anyhow. All it takes is one nasty relative to make false (and anonymous!) reports, and you can be put through a whirlwind of troubles. I really feel for this parent, it’s a terrible situation, and could only be compounded by having a special needs child who may not understand what’s happening.

  7. #7 Lightnin
    June 19, 2008

    Typically closed mind atheists scientists, always preaching their dogma about rationailty and evidence. Didn’t anyone ever tell them that psychics and astrology and tarot cards and religion are just “harmless” fun that “make people happy” and that it’s an important part of their lives.

    I’m not even a parent, so I can only begin to appreciate how FUCKING MAD I would be if a teacher tried that shit with me.

    And lets not forget the hypothetical parent who DID beleive this shit-they would have been sick with distress thinking their kid was being abused, just because of the cold reading of some scam artist.

    This is trully a messed up situation.

  8. #8 MAJeff, OM
    June 19, 2008

    Yes, Jason, not everyone is crazy. However, the state came into this famly’s home, intervened in their life, on the basis of this idiocy. It was taken seriously.

    If the aide isn’t released, there should be something placed in her personnel file–and used in her employee evaluation–that she filed a false and frivolous report on the basis of a psychic. This should harm her career.

  9. #9 Holbach
    June 19, 2008

    If it isn’t religious insanity that causes us so much grief it is situations as described here that makes us wonder if human society will make it possible to treat each other with rational behavior. That mother will be in a state of worry for her daughter from now on. Sad.

  10. #10 Jackal
    June 19, 2008

    If you want to spread nasty rumors about the teacher’s aid who went to the psychic and the teacher and administrators who took the accusations seriously, fine. I don’t see why you’d run the rest of the teachers at the school through your rumor mill. They had nothing to do with it.

  11. #11 Whalehugger
    June 19, 2008

    What’s really annoying to me is that this little stir brought about by the aide has taken case workers who are already strapped for time and resources on a wild goose chase when it could be used for children who really need their help.

  12. #12 clinteas
    June 19, 2008

    One can only speculate how this could have gone if the mother hadnt audio-taped her daughter and had her on GPS,how far would that inquisition,sorry investigation have gone,would they have believed her or the psychic?

    PZ,im glad Im not in the US and am reading this at 8pm with a couple glasses under my belt,I would be seriously depressed if I read that stuff in the morning….

  13. #13 Lilly de Lure
    June 19, 2008

    MAJeff said:

    If the aide isn’t released, there should be something placed in her personnel file–and used in her employee evaluation–that she filed a false and frivolous report on the basis of a psychic. This should harm her career.

    It should end her career. I can’t believe child services didn’t take one look at this report and then immediately file a complaint against the school’s administrators with the relevant disciplinary body.

    The 80′s Satanic Panics surely should have taught officialdom something about just how much damage this sort of uncritical “thinking” can inflict on people.

  14. #14 Blaidd Drwg
    June 19, 2008

    Actually, Jackal (#10), it’s not necessary to spread nasty rumours about the educational assistant in this case. Simply hammering home the truth should be sufficient. The Children’s Aid department was hoodwinked by a psychic.

    I’m no lawyer, but shouldn’t it be possible to bring ‘false accusation’ charges against this ‘psychic’?

  15. #15 Zeno
    June 19, 2008

    This reeks of the infamous McMartin Preschool case here in California, which began with accusations by a mentally ill (and alcoholic) mother and resulted in six years of criminal investigations and prosecutions, although without ever convicting anyone. One of the accused, Ray Buckley, was held in prison for five years despite never being convicted in multiple trials. I can still remember my parents and their friends confidently asserting Buckley’s guilt because “you could tell” from his appearances on TV. Must be nice to be psychic.

  16. #16 clinteas
    June 19, 2008

    What PZ so pointedly calls the erosion of critical thinking means in real life,that there are a lot of people walking the earth who are totally unhinged from rationality,including people in power and official office.Call me naive,but the extent of that is just now starting to sink in….
    Like Lilly de Lure(mmmmmmmm)said,its hardly believable that this school board actually acted on this crap !

  17. #17 bassmanpete
    June 19, 2008

    That anyone in a position of authority would have considered this worthy of investigation makes me think that we are still only a whisker away from Carl Sagan’s “Demon Haunted World.” Very scary.

  18. #18 GP
    June 19, 2008

    To be fair to the CAS, they may not have known about the psychic part when they started the investigation. They’ll also be pretty upset with the school for wasting their time.

    And the consequences to the psychic – none. Not even named in the article.

  19. #19 Kate
    June 19, 2008

    If I were the parent of a child who had that woman for an “educational assistant” my child would be withdrawn from that school. Today.

    That someone charged with assisting the mental and social development of children would make serious accusations based on a vague idea from some “psychic” con-artist is bad enough.

    That the administrators of the school would actually go as far as to inform the authorities based on such drivel is appalling. Disgusting, even.

    If they had made the complaint based on other evidence it would be one thing. (There was mention in other coverage that the child displayed some “sexualized behavior” in the past, however, the article goes on to state that the behavior exhibited by the child is typical for the type and severity of developmental disorder which the child suffers.) But nooooooo…. it’s because a psychic told them so. Great. What’s next? A seance conducted in math class to determine the correct answer to 3x+3y=18? Perhaps we ought to do away with grades and simply allow educators to use ouija boards to decide who passes and who fails?

    I’m going to spend my free time today writing letters. One to my MP, one to the Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty, one to the Minister of education, Kathleen Wynne, and one to the Prime Minister’s office.

    I, for one, am sick an tired of the bullshit con-artists of this world preying on the ignorant and misinformed. I’m even more tired of the educational system in this country allowing such brainless idiots as this woman access to impressionable children.

  20. #20 ceejayoz
    June 19, 2008

    You know, I’m not much for the culture of litigation in the States these days…

    … but in this case, I’d be suing the psychic, the aide, and the school administration who took it seriously.

  21. #21 negentropyeater
    June 19, 2008

    1. “But under the Child and Family Services Act, anyone who works with children and has reasonable grounds to suspect a youngster is being harmed, must report it immediately – and the CAS has an obligation to follow up.”

    2. “And what does the admittedly red-faced school board have to say about all this? “I don’t have the information yet, but when we proceed with our own investigation we’ll know more about that,” is all Dr. Lindy Zaretsky, the Simcoe County Superintendent, was willing to allow”

    So, this Dr Zaretsky needs an “investigation” to say that they had no reasonable grounds to suspect a youngster was being harmed ?

    What an asshole, he’s just continuing with the denial !

  22. #22 MAJeff, OM
    June 19, 2008

    I, for one, am sick an tired of the bullshit con-artists of this world preying on the ignorant and misinformed.

    And the desperate. I showed Silverlake Life in class the other night. It’s a devastating film, but a moment that just makes me so angry is this fuckwitted woman channeling some spirit in order to heal the body of HIV through vibrations. The desperate credulity of people living with such conditions is troubling (but desperation can make you do some crazy stuff), but people who prey on that are beneath contempt.

  23. #23 BigHeathenMike
    June 19, 2008

    Some of us have written letters to the offending school board – if you’d like to do the same to vent your frustration at the lack of any sort of critical thinking, please go either here or here to see the letters already done with the contact information.

    I think embarrassing them is a good tack. Shame them into apologizing and paying for the time Leduc has now been forced to take off from work.

  24. #24 Brendan S
    June 19, 2008

    Most Psychics are careful to make you sign something saying you won’t cause hysteria based on their cold reading techniques.

  25. #25 AllanW
    June 19, 2008

    GP; ‘And the consequences to the psychic – none. Not even named in the article.’

    Why should there be? They are practising their scam on credulous people. The credulous person with no ability to filter reality is the one who is dangerous as she acted upon the words. We won’t progress as a society if we scattergun blame. Infringing this psychics freedom of expression won’t help. Teaching people not to be credulous will remove his audience which will put paid to the psychic without becoming tyrannical.

  26. #26 PZ is Full of IT
    June 19, 2008

    Children have to be protected, PZ

    ACT first.

    Ask your questions later.

    Why would you proved ANY support to a possible abuser?

  27. #27 Stephen Wells
    June 19, 2008

    … shouldn’t they know if you’re going to cause hysteria? being psychic, and all?

    “My amazing psychic powers tell me you’re a gullible moron.”

  28. #28 Stephen Wells
    June 19, 2008

    Brilliant parody at number 26. Act first! Think later! Panic now!

  29. #29 Brendan S
    June 19, 2008

    Apperantly, to some people (#26), ignorance really is strength.

  30. #30 MartinM
    June 19, 2008

    Why would you proved ANY support to a possible abuser?

    Quite. Why on earth would anyone want to support someone, just because they might be entirely innocent of any wrong-doing whatsoever? Sheer insanity.

  31. #31 Mike
    June 19, 2008

    Maybe reading all these atheist blogs has made my cynical… but the only thing I find surprising/astounding about this story is that other people find it surprising/astounding. Yes, it’s a tragic story, and the mother was fortunate to have the evidence to expose the false claim. That part is clear. But why is it so surprising that people really believe in psychics?

  32. #32 Peter Holt
    June 19, 2008

    PZ,im glad Im not in the US

    You know, I’m not much for the culture of litigation in the States these days…

    Place the blame where it’s due, this happened in Canada.

  33. #33 NelC
    June 19, 2008

    #26: Provide support for someone who doesn’t exist? How does that work?

  34. #34 clinteas
    June 19, 2008

    @ No 32 :

    I realize that,and was referring to the timezone,not the location,here being 12 hours ahead.

  35. #35 steve8282
    June 19, 2008

    I live in basically the next district.

    The provincial government in Ontario is taking powers away from locla schoolboars for F***ing up financially here and if they are not taking a serious look at these weasels I don’t know what they are thinking.

  36. #36 neverclear5
    June 19, 2008

    “Children have to be protected, PZ

    ACT first.

    Ask your questions later.

    Why would you proved ANY support to a possible abuser?

    Posted by: PZ is Full of IT”

    What possible abuser? There was no more reason to suspect abuse than if you randomly chose a child off the street. This is not support to a possible abuser. If anything, it’s time and money wasted on nothing. By your logic they should investigate every home, every day.

  37. #37 Michelle
    June 19, 2008

    WHAT THE FUCK?!

    Sorry. That’s what I screamed. Someone SLAP THESE IDIOTS.

  38. #38 Kez
    June 19, 2008

    This is one of the most terrible stories I have ever read.

  39. #39 Benjamin Franklin
    June 19, 2008

    I give the teacher, vice-principal and principal at Terry Fox Elementary an F for failing to determine if there was any validity to the claim before notifying the mother and childrens services that there was sexual abuse.

    I would give the educational assistant an F as in FIRED for instigating this matter based on a psychic’s bullshit.

  40. #40 Tim Fuller
    June 19, 2008

    The problem is made worse by the woohoo stuff they broadcast all the time on History and Discovery Channel. Chalk this up to:

    As seen on TV.

    Enjoy.

  41. #41 who is your creator
    June 19, 2008

    In regard to the original text from PZ:
    “This is what happens when a culture tells people that reason and evidence are optional, and faith is touted as a virtue. I’m sure that educational assistant thought she was doing a good thing and was trying to protect Victoria…but the filters had been stripped from her brain, she had no tools to make rational assessments of the evidence, and so she charged in to do something vile and destructive, instead.”

    1. How interesting that PZ believes that “faith” in this instance is somehow related to “virtue.” This is nothing but a story of what happens when people create their own religion (in this case ‘new age’ spiritualism).

    2. I do agree with your assessment of her utter lack of reason and evidence – just like the religion of naturalism.

  42. #42 MAJeff, OM
    June 19, 2008

    This is nothing but a story of what happens when people create their own religion

    Whoosh!

  43. #43 Moses
    June 19, 2008

    I don’t know why you are astounded. It only takes one crazy person involved with children to make a problem.

    I went through the crazy when my Borderline Personality Disorder with Paranoid features ex-wife tried to hang that bullshit on me when we got divorced. It was an eye opening experience, to say the least.

    One of the things I learned is that all allegations against a MAN are considered true. No matter how patently stupid they are. Another is that if you don’t have a lot of money for a good lawyer and expert witnesses, you’re well and truly fucked.

    The shortest version of the story is that not only were the allegations shown to be false, but she started her own home “examinations” because all the sexual-abuse examiners(and even DCS) ended up on my side as they could see how patently false the allegations were. One day she stepped a little too far over the line, someone made a referral against her. DCS called and 4-hours later I had full (temporary) custody.

    Six months later, the State put-on a parental termination trial (which I piggy-backed on) and her parental rights were removed. The trial took less than half-a-day as she couldn’t take the stand (5th Amendment) without criminally implicating herself. Whereas I brought in my daughter’s therapist who had full permission to speak to the Court. It was “game over” for her.

    I think, over the past nine years of therapy for , plus the $40,000 to $50,000 in attorneys fees, it’s run me close to $100,000 now. I get some nominal child support ($90/month (State minimum) that was awarded during the temporary custody pre-trial phase.

    And mine was a very prosaic case of crazy ex-wife trying to “win” at all costs with little outside help. If the State gets involved… I don’t know. Suicide is your best option? Because the DCS workers will lie and perjure themselves for “the good of the children” (as they decide). McMarten, which PZ links too, is not nearly the outlier that many you may wish to think.

  44. #44 Zeno
    June 19, 2008

    This is nothing but a story of what happens when people create their own religion (in this case ‘new age’ spiritualism).

    Oh, right! If only people stuck with traditional religions instead of “new age” stuff, they wouldn’t fall for scams like psychic counselors. They could instead be victimized the old-fashioned way: by priests, rabbis, imams, and ministers.

    That’s much better than evidence-based reasoning.

  45. #45 John Phillips, FCD
    June 19, 2008

    who is your creator: Actually, it isn’t PZ who thinks that faith = virtue, but believers, even the holy babble says so. What delusions they believe in makes little difference at the end of the day. After all, how is psychic belief any different to religious belief as they both have the same amount of evidence supporting them, i.e. none.

  46. #46 Ranson
    June 19, 2008

    My parents still recount the time (before my time) they were dragged into court on allegations that they abused my brother. He had large bruises up and down his arms, both fresh and new, and a “concerned party” had reported it. The deciding witness for the defense? My brother’s football coach, who explained that linemen like my brother use their arms to hit people in the helmet, several times a week, for several hours at a time.

    Case dismissed.

  47. #47 Jeff
    June 19, 2008

    I think Matt and Trey had it right:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wacky_Molestation_Adventure

    Just say the word “molestation” loud enough, and people automatically throw out all illusions of a fair trial, justice, and evidence because they KNOW it happened in their “heart of hearts”.

  48. #48 Blondin
    June 19, 2008

    I suspect the psychic will be denounced by all the “real psychics” in the area. I just wonder how many other creduloids have been told similar stories by this bottom-feeder.

  49. #49 DaveX
    June 19, 2008

    Don’t feed the troll.

  50. #50 Blaidd Drwg
    June 19, 2008

    @ AllanW (#25), I respectfully disagree. When a shark attacks a surfer, the authorities don’t accuse the surfers of wrongdoing, they go out and find and kill the shark. (Personally I find this practice abhorrent, most surfers know that they are in the shark’s domain, and that they are taking a chance). Let’s not blame the victim, blame the one preying on the gullible.

    @ PZ is Full of IT (#26) In the early 90′s at Brown University (I think) a women’s group posted fliers with men’s names, accusing them of being ‘potential rapists’. The men ‘featured’ in these fliers had never been accused of rape, had never been suspected. The basis for the accusation? They had penises!

  51. #51 sjburnt
    June 19, 2008

    “Live by gullibility, die by gullibility. All’s fair, right?”

    No. It is not.

  52. #52 clinteas
    June 19, 2008

    Says “I havent been taking my meds” -who_is_your_creator,No 41:

    //How interesting that PZ believes that “faith” in this instance is somehow related to “virtue.” This is nothing but a story of what happens when people create their own religion (in this case ‘new age’ spiritualism).//

    Not related to virtue dumbo,but made a virtue by christian wackaloons(my new fav word btw).
    And yes,those new age spiritualists came up with the idea of creating a religion first….LOL

  53. #53 Donovan
    June 19, 2008

    I am roughly a year and a half from full teaching credentials. This makes me want to wait another 2 to 3 years for my masters and go try for a community college job. How does someone that insanely… that insanely… that insanely… well… that insane get a job working with vulnerable children? There should be tests and classes one should take before becoming a teacher =P In truth, though, having been through ECE (Early Childhood Education) courses, I can testify that they are cotton candy courses. Sit around in a circle, talk about how wonderful children are, and bang, 4 years later you have a BS. Aside from core classes, there is really no academic basis. That’s why I left and specialized for secondary education.

  54. #54 Bonechar
    June 19, 2008

    I have a friend who’s asked me more than once why I care so much about people believing in stupid things like ghosts or God. This is why. Delusion in and of itself is harmful, no matter what your delusion is.

    Anybody else note that at the end of the nice skeptical article, the autism information sources they link to advocate DAN! and other biomed treatments for autism?

  55. #55 David Utidjian
    June 19, 2008

    MAJeff #42.

    “Whoosh!”

    Sounded to me like a Boeing 747 taking off while snapping the indicators of my irony and tard meters which are sucked into the engine intakes which causes the plane to crash into the swamp that is wiycs thought processes.

    I know… swamps would object to the comparison.

    -DU-

  56. #56 Michelle
    June 19, 2008

    I fail to see the virtue of believing into something that boasts no evidence.

  57. #57 Carlie
    June 19, 2008

    If I were the parent of a child who had that woman for an “educational assistant” my child would be withdrawn from that school. Today.

    According to the article, she did. However, since she had no alternate place for her child, she has to stay home with her, and has lost her job as a result. The aide, of course, is still happily pulling down a paycheck. I’m so mad I can’t even see straight. I keep toying with the idea of making a “how to distinguish and avoid bullshit” course, but most of the examples of those kinds of courses I’ve seen are electives, and I’d have to tweak it to fit the state gen ed requirements. I’m thinking I really need to do that, though.

  58. #58 Benjamin Franklin
    June 19, 2008

    Re #41

    s/b

    I do agree with your assessment of her utter lack of reason and evidence – just like the religion – period! of naturalism .

  59. #59 Gene
    June 19, 2008

    It sounds like the parents would have good cause for a lawsuit of slander against the “education assistant.” This moron should know that pulling a stunt like that again could end up in jail time.

  60. #60 PatrickHenry
    June 19, 2008

    Permit me to place this issue in historical context. It all goes back to the admissibility of Spectral evidence, such as was used in the Salem witch trials. Judges these days are supposed to make decisions based only upon evidence which is actually in the record of the trial, and there are enormous safeguards erected around the use of hearsay.

    Apparently, however, those school bureaucrats are not governed by — or even aware of — modern concepts of rationality, and can behave as if they were back in old Salem.

  61. #61 Donnie B.
    June 19, 2008

    No, no, no — I keep telling you: Who’s on first.

    What is your creator.

    PZed? Third base.

    ——————————

    Seriously, though, commenter #1 had the right adjective: ghastly. IMHO, it’s the so-called “psychic” who should take the heat for this (first and foremost), with the educational assistant running a close second.

    It seems that the school administrators were only covering their butts, since the law requires reporting of a “credible” accusation. I wonder, did they know at the time that the originator was a psychic, or did they assume the assistant had some real knowledge and considered her to be credible?

    I’m starting to sense a “boy who cried wolf” situation here — who will ever take that assistant seriously on any future claims? That stigma alone should be enough to derail her career.

  62. #62 Citizen Z
    June 19, 2008

    Shouldn’t “PZ is Full of IT” be in Mr. Freshwater’s class right now? It’s a school day, isn’t it?

  63. #63 qbsmd
    June 19, 2008

    Why aren’t the teacher or aide named in any of the articles? Everyone else is, from the school administrators to the case worker. Screw the innocent, but, by God, we’ll protect the guilty, I guess.

  64. #64 Richard Harris
    June 19, 2008

    It’s kind of ironic that this happened at a school named after the Canadian hero Terry Fox. The fools involved should suffer some sanctions for their stupidity, especially the ‘psychic’.

    From The TimesMay 23, 2008

    The fortune-tellers, at least, must have seen it coming. The biggest overhaul of consumer laws for 40 years takes effect on Monday, tightening controls on everything from door-to-door salesmen to children’s advertising.

    Fortune-tellers and astrologists will be bracketed with double-glazing salesman under the new Consumer Protection Regulations. The changes, which implement an EU directive on unfair commercial practices, require businesses for the first time to act fairly towards consumers and will outlaw diresputable trading activities.

    Fortune-tellers will have to tell customers that what they offer is “for entertainment only” and not “experimentally proven”. This means that a fortune-teller who sets up a tent at a funfair will have to put up a disclaimer on a board outside.

    Similar disclaimers will need to be posted on the websites of faith healers, spiritualists or mediums where appropriate, as well as on invoices and at the top of any printed terms and conditions.

    Andy Millmore, a partner at the law firm Harbottle & Lewis in London, said: “What is significant is the sweeping nature of the regulations. They will effectively criminalise actions that might in the past have escaped legal censure, even if they may perhaps have been covered by industry voluntary codes.

    “Personalised services may also come under scrutiny. A tarot pack reader, for instance, cannot just pick one of several templates – it would have to be a proper reading designed for that person.”

    Claims to secure good fortune, contact the dead or heal through the laying-on of hands are all services that will also have to carry disclaimers, other lawyers say. “You could argue that this is no different from promises given by the Church of Eternal Life, which people pay for, in the sense that they feel obliged to give to the collection,” one said. “It’s no more proven.”

    Mr Millmore said that the changes created a lower test for prosecution. “Before, a prosecution had to show that there was a false or misleading trade description. Now the test is, is it an unfair commercial trade practice? So we are likely to see more prosecutions,” he said.

    The new test would also take account of the context of the sale, he said. If the target were an elderly or vulnerable person, the courts would take a harsher view. “If my aged grandmother lets in a double-glazing seller, and he presses her to make a sale, that would probably constitute an ‘aggressive practice’ and be criminalised.”

    This new EU legislation calls upon these goobers to advertise their services as being for entertainment. But I notice that in my local paper, (in the UK), one is still offering her services as if they were based on reality. Feck them!

    I did think about reporting her to the police. I guess I ought to. These lying imbeciles can do real damage.

  65. #65 jimmiraybob
    June 19, 2008

    The minute we stopped “swimming” suspects to test for the influence of Satan we were doomed. I’ll tell ya, the accused in this country, nay, in this world, are at the end of their liberal-coddled, God-rejecting free ride.

    Don’t even get me started on the loss of witch burning as a law-and-order tool.

  66. #66 NC Paul
    June 19, 2008

    If you think that’s bad, check out this heart-warming tale of religious compassion in action:

    http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/frontpage/2008/0618/1213735260037.html?via=mr

    In brief: A 14 year old Polish girl is raped; she and her mother decide to terminate the pregnancy, as is allowed even under restrictive Polish law, they go to the clinic and find not a doctor, but a priest from a local pro-life movement who tries to force the girl to sign a letter saying she’ll keep the baby. The mother sources another clinic, but the doctors there refuse to do it because they’ve had death threats. Then “someone” reports the mother to social services and the girl gets taken into care. She’s 11 weeks pregnant, but Polish law forbids abortions after 12 weeks. So all the pro-lifers have to do is obstruct her for another week.

    Truely, god is love.

  67. #67 True Bob
    June 19, 2008

    And all this time I thought Wack-A-Loon was what the canucks played instead of Whack-A-Mole.

  68. #68 Lilly de Lure
    June 19, 2008

    NC Paul:

    Charmers all!

    If you’ll excuse me I just need to go find my bucket.

    YEUCH!

  69. #69 Nephi
    June 19, 2008

    This reminds me of our Mormon bishops that, based on their personal revelation, called people into special positions within the church. No assessment whether the person is qualified to take on the new responsibility. No questionnaire to see if the new job will cause stress or hardship to the individual. Members of the church are fearful to say no to their bishop because of the stigma for doing so. Members do not want to be proceed as weak in faith.

  70. #70 Kel
    June 19, 2008

    You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. That is a complete load of bollocks!

  71. #71 Lilly de Lure
    June 19, 2008

    Seriously, though, commenter #1 had the right adjective: ghastly. IMHO, it’s the so-called “psychic” who should take the heat for this (first and foremost), with the educational assistant running a close second.

    Unfortunately, there is next to zero chance that the psychic actually will. Even if they do manage to get her into court all she needs to say is that never for a minute meant V to mean Victoria/ she just got a feeling/ it’s not her fault her idiot client misinterpreted her vision and blah, blah, blah and she’s off the hook.

    Plus, if she’s got the slightest spark of marketing nouse about her she can milk the whole experience for years, making herself out as some kind of persecuted heroine, viciously attacked by those “afraid” of her “abilities”.

    Do Canadians really want this creature showing up as a Trashy TV medium for years to come?

  72. #72 Aquaria
    June 19, 2008

    Since I live in Texas, don’t get me started on the stupidity of the average public school personnel.

  73. #73 Tosser
    June 19, 2008

    Often I can dismiss superstitious lunacy with a laugh and a curse under my breath, but this ruined my day.

    The woman who went to a psychic is an idiot for doing so, and she should never be allowed to supervise children again.

    The psychic should stick to the usual fraud. By drumming up false legal charges, she/he should criminally prosecuted.

  74. #74 Epinephrine
    June 19, 2008

    The administrators at that school who took such idiocy seriously ought to be removed from their position of trust

    I disagree. While the TA and the psychic are both idiots, the school administrators had no choice. The idiot TA might not want to admit that she saw abuse, and might be using a “psychic” as a cover story. They have a legal obligation to follow up, as did CAS, who quickly dropped it.

    The idiot TA and the psychic should be charged with mischief.

  75. #75 Paul
    June 19, 2008

    There has been some interesting discussion of this at the JREF forum. The role of the psychic in this is probably being overplayed. The article states that the young girl had been displaying “sexualized behaviour.” In other words, she had been groping herself in class. While this behaviour is not necessarily out of character for an autistic child approaching adolescence, it can also be a sign of a yeast, urinary tract or bladder infection, which can be indicative of sexual contact. So the teaching assistant almost certainly had suspicions to start with. The psychic either just repeated them back to her (you know, because that’s what they do), or was merely an invention of the teaching assistant used to anonymize the accusation. Apparently this is fairly common in these kinds of situations – people are reluctant to be seen as a sole accuser.

    So, what we most probably have here is a teaching assistant who wanted to state her suspicions, but didn’t want to be on the hot seat alone if they turned out to be unfounded. But the suspicions predated the visit to the psychic (if indeed one occurred). And these suspicions do need to be acted upon promptly. As an educator, how would you feel if you waited for more evidence, and then found out the child was being abused and you could have stopped it much earlier?

  76. #76 Dagger
    June 19, 2008

    I’m a little disappointed in you PZ.

    You said, “Let’s make it worse. Reports of sexual abuse must be reported to Children’s Aid, even if it is merely a stupid remark by a credulous gawp of an aid, built on the dishonest bilking of a con artist. So Leduc now has a file opened on her and is being investigated.” Present tense.

    The article clearly stated that CAS did investigate, as is their mandate for all claims no matter how incredulous, and then immediately closed the file.

    The story itself is enough to get people fired up. Doesn’t need any help with incorrect reporting. I’ll expect better of you in the future…

  77. #77 Emmet Caulfield
    June 19, 2008

    Does Canada have some legislation that would allow some of the people involved (e.g. the psychic and the aide) to be prosecuted and fined for filing a false report or wasting police time? A hefty fine might encourage psychics to stick to “you will meet a tall, dark, stranger” stories, think twice about inventing accusations of criminal behaviour, and discourage others from propagating such nonsense.

  78. #78 Katrina
    June 19, 2008

    Two more good reasons to homeschool: Not having to deal with public school administrators and being certain your kid develops critical thinking skills.

    (After all, Critical Thinking isn’t on the standardization tests.)

  79. #79 Leslie in Canada
    June 19, 2008

    Epinephrine: is it true that the school administrators had no choice? I cannot imagine that if the claim was completely without merit (such as from a fortune-teller or psychic) there was a need to investigate further. As a Canadian, I am horrified by this. And even though the CSA disposed of it as “ridiculous” there will be a record somewhere.

  80. #80 david s
    June 19, 2008

    #69 said “This reminds me of our Mormon bishops that, based on their personal revelation, called people into special positions within the church. No assessment whether the person is qualified to take on the new responsibility.”

    That’s the Bush Justice Department, right?

  81. #81 Eamon Knight
    June 19, 2008

    While the TA and the psychic are both idiots, the school administrators had no choice. The idiot TA might not want to admit that she saw abuse, and might be using a “psychic” as a cover story. They have a legal obligation to follow up, as did CAS, who quickly dropped it.

    I dispute that the school admins had no choice. IANAL, but the law saws “reasonable grounds” — which should allow them to dismiss clearly frivolous reports. If “My psychic told me” doesn’t qualify as frivolous, then nothing does, and anyone who thinks otherwise is…gullible. (Now once they’d made the complaint, you are correct that the CAS had to follow up. I think their case worker was a tad annoyed at having her/his time wasted.)

  82. #82 AllanW
    June 19, 2008

    And with the greatest of respect Blaidd Drwg #50 (and Epinephrine #74) ‘Let’s not blame the victim, blame the one preying on the gullible.’ is a really poor response to this kind of situation IMO. How in hell do you enforce rules against gullibility? Against credulousness? Nope, the penalty for those vices is to be pointed out, ridiculed, laughed out of court or out of your job if they are serious. This removes the audience for hucksters and shysters (of whatever stripe) but you can never get rid of the human urge to practice confidence tricks on others while there is some kind of benefit to be had. Sure, go after the most egregious but, as in this case by the looks of it, you’ll never pin anything on the psychic. And rightly so IMO. The active agent here is the TA not the psychic.

  83. #83 Cardinal S
    June 19, 2008

    Did they make sure she weighs the same as a duck before starting the investigation?

  84. #84 NP
    June 19, 2008

    This is just insane and pathetic.

    That psychic should be named and shamed. It’s amazing how much trouble these shysters can stir up.

  85. #85 Dagger
    June 19, 2008

    #77 – Yes. Anytime CAS is involved with a case, police are involved. It will depend on whether the Crown (our prosecution department up here) wants to persue it.

    #79 – School boards, administrators and teachers are mandated by law to report any potential incident of child abuse. No matter how inane. Failure to report this incident (no matter how stupid it seems..er.. is) could be legally construed as negligence on the part of the school administrators. The rule is to err on the side of caution. As I mentioned to 77, it will be up to the Crown to recoup the costs of this stupidity.

  86. #86 Bill Dauphin
    June 19, 2008

    The article clearly stated that CAS did investigate, as is their mandate for all claims no matter how incredulous, and then immediately closed the file.

    So it’s alright with you that innocent people are falsely accused of horrific crimes, as long as they’re eventually cleared?

    I’ve never been through it (thank FSM!), but I’m guessing the mere fact of the investigation caused a nontrivial amount of stress and humiliation.

    I have no problem with a legal requirement that credible suspicions of abuse be investigated; we ought to have better ways of minimizing the harm associated with incredible suspicions.

  87. #87 tony (Not a vegan)
    June 19, 2008

    RE: reporting the case.

    I’d prefer that the school act, rather than not — and I’d rather have one hundred false alarms than one failure to act. The main problem with this, however, is the current behavioral stigmata associated with any investigation (there’s no smoke without fire) since investigation = guilty to the gumby’s of the world. However, the TA definitely needs to seek some reality-based guidance, in this particular case.

    RE: Duplicitous hucksters and eager customers.

    The BBC had a show (that my son found through his constant YouTube crawl for magic tricks and sleigh-of-hand) all about con artists and their ‘tricks’ call ed The Real Hustle. The shows are worth a watch on You Tube (search for Real Hustle)

    Main thread running through all of the shows – people are not just easily duped – many people appear to be to be duped. And these are cynical, irreligious Brits!

    What hope is there for Americans?

  88. #88 Janice
    June 19, 2008

    PZ, I’m so glad you took this story and ran with it. My younger child is autistic and we’re fortunate that her current teacher and EAs are models of rational thoughtfulness.

    What worries me is that the EA and school officials in the story might have cited other concerns as cause to investigate (though the reference to sexualized behaviour simply shows that these educators aren’t really up-to-date on developmental psychology and adolescent sexuality). But to ground their charge in a psychic’s vision only shows that the school officials lack the level of judgment necessary to provide appropriate oversight for kids at risk.

  89. #89 Citizen Z
    June 19, 2008

    The article states that the young girl had been displaying “sexualized behaviour.” In other words, she had been groping herself in class. While this behaviour is not necessarily out of character for an autistic child approaching adolescence, it can also be a sign of a yeast, urinary tract or bladder infection, which can be indicative of sexual contact. So the teaching assistant almost certainly had suspicions to start with. The psychic either just repeated them back to her (you know, because that’s what they do), or was merely an invention of the teaching assistant used to anonymize the accusation.

    Utter nonsense, the article doesn’t state that at all:

    “The teacher looked and me and said: ‘We have to tell you something. The educational assistant who works with Victoria went to see a psychic last night, and the psychic asked the educational assistant at that particular time if she works with a little girl by the name of “V.” And she said ‘yes, I do.’ And she said, ‘well, you need to know that that child is being sexually abused by a man between the ages of 23 and 26.’”

    There is no evidence given that the aide had suspicions to start with.

    And how utterly pathetic would it be, to avoid saying “this child showed “sign of a yeast, urinary tract or bladder infection, which can be indicative of sexual contact”, the aide actually thought that saying a psychic said Victoria was sexually assaulted would be better.

  90. #90 tony (Not a vegan)
    June 19, 2008

    sorry: bad HTML: read people are not just easily duped – many people appear to be eager to be duped

  91. #91 BMcP
    June 19, 2008

    Erosion? Dude, when they bring in the psychics, critical thinking is just gone.

  92. #92 Dagger
    June 19, 2008

    #86 – Of course it’s not alright with me that innocent people are falsely accused, but it happens all the time. In a perfect world this would never happen. Unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world. If you believe in the “innocent until proven guilty” statement then your deluding yourself. It hasn’t been that way in 100 years or more, if ever. This day and age it’s more like “Guilty until proven guiltier”. And yeah, it sucks. And yeah, I agree that it’s going to possibly cause stress and humiliation to the parties involved. What really bothers me though, is there isn’t one damn thing you or I can do about it.

  93. #93 Kristine
    June 19, 2008

    Why wasn’t the educational assistant fired?

  94. #94 Aaron
    June 19, 2008

    Story has been forwarded to all my relatives/friends who live in Barrie with the suggestion that they call the school and ask what the hell they’re thinking and why they haven’t fired the assistant.

    Additionally, this school does not deserve to have Terry Fox’s good name on it if it’s being run like that.

  95. #95 Bill Dauphin
    June 19, 2008

    What really bothers me though, is there isn’t one damn thing you or I can do about it.

    Fatalistic BS. In even an imperfectly democratic society, this is never a correct response to social problems.

  96. #96 mike stanton
    June 19, 2008

    It could have been worse. At least she did not visit an exorcist.

  97. #97 Tulse
    June 19, 2008

    Utter nonsense, the article doesn’t state that at all

    Citizen Z, you’re in danger of having your reading license revoked — from the article:

    Victoria, who is non-verbal, had also been exhibiting sexualized behaviour in class, actions which are known to be typical of autistic behavior. (See other typical actions here) That lead authorities to suspect she had a bladder infection that may have somehow been related to the ‘attack.’

  98. #98 Aaron
    June 19, 2008

    Maybe the abuse the psychic was referring to was the anticipated abuse at the hands of the school administrators and teaching assistant following the prediction.

    Kind of like in the matrix, when the ‘oracle’ tells Keeanu not to worry about the broken glass which he then turns around and breaks.

  99. #99 Dagger
    June 19, 2008

    Okay Bill, do something about it. I challenge you. Go ahead. Tell me what you can do about it. Heck, if you can do something about it, I’ll even volunteer to help. For the record though, I’ve already written to the school board voicing my opinion on this and I’ve spoken to the legal department of my local CAS to see what recourse there may be. But if you think as a single individual you can solve all of societies problems, far be it for me to stand in your way. Good luck.

  100. #100 Brian
    June 19, 2008

    This is nothing more than modern-day witch hunting. There is a new trend of having psychics replace therapists and psychiatrists, so I don’t foresee this getting better anytime soon.

  101. #101 wÒÓ†
    June 19, 2008
  102. #102 Citizen Z
    June 19, 2008

    Tulse, it’s more of a case of my writing ability being crap. The article made it sound distinctly like a post hoc rationalization of a psychic’s “prediction”. If the child grabbing herself could be considered evidence of sexual assault, why the hell bring the psychic into it? And why (if the mother’s account is correct) did this all happen the next day after the visit to the psychic reading? Also “That lead authorities to suspect she had a bladder infection that may have somehow been related to the ‘attack.’” I think implies they were suspecting there had been an attack, otherwise they would have said: “That lead authorities to suspect she had a bladder infection that may have been a result of a sexual ‘attack.’”

    It’s certainly possible that the aide had suspicions beforehand, I just don’t see it as likely, assuming the article is accurate.

  103. #103 Matt Penfold
    June 19, 2008

    I have long thought that in cases where psychics either report that a crime has been committed, or offer to help solve a crime, that the police ought to bring them in for questioning. Since they cannot actually know of these things through psychic means they either have knowledge of the crime through some other means, in which case they should be treated as either a witness or suspect, or they are lying, in which case they need to be charged with wasting police time. I am not sure about Canada but I am pretty sure that in the UK it is an offence not only make false reports of a crime to the police, but also to do so to others who could reasonably be expected to act on such a report.

  104. #104 Richard Simons
    June 19, 2008

    Does Canada have some legislation that would allow some of the people involved (e.g. the psychic and the aide) to be prosecuted and fined for filing a false report or wasting police time?

    I do not recall the details but a number of years ago a couple in Saskatchewan who ran a day-care, along with their son (early 20s?) were charged and convicted of horrific offences including Satanism and cannibalism. It then turned out that the entire evidence against them came from the children under questioning by a psychologist. The family were released and IIRC the psychologist and the social worker were charged with malicious prosecution(?)

    Does anyone recall more of the details and know what became of this case?

  105. #105 Quiet Desperation
    June 19, 2008

    By the way, its not just in the US that critical thinking skills are lacking.

    Yeah, especially since the story was about Canada and all.

  106. #106 Colugo
    June 19, 2008

    Imagine if this happened in America – there would be a lot of comments on the unique stupidity and superstitiousness of Americans – gloating by Canadian and European commenters and expressions of shame by Americans. As I have saying for a long time, the decline of organized religion in Europe and Canada has not necessarily led to a rise in rationalism. Rather, the vacuum left by the absence of traditional religion is filled by psychic nonsense, idiosyncratic mysticism, and pseudoscience. Accordingly, anti-vax, pro-homeopathy, anti-biotech sentiment is more prevalent in Europe.

  107. #107 Quiet Desperation
    June 19, 2008

    All it takes is one nasty relative to make false (and anonymous!) reports, and you can be put through a whirlwind of troubles.

    I know lots of guys now who refuse to even be alone with any children (other than their own if they have them).

  108. #108 Glen Davidson
    June 19, 2008

    This should have been treated as meaningless gossip. While it’s true that these reports have to be followed up, most can be handled pretty quickly by noting the lack of credibility of the source.

    Unfortunately, in the US psychic claims also have to be followed up in many cases. But I’m sure the follow-up is fairly minimal in the vast majority of cases. Somehow cops almost never care about what the psychics say until they’re completely out of leads.

    Then sometimes they’ll listen, and the psychic cold reads them, and a few are amazed that the psychic knows what only the police know. Well, what only the police knew, until they gave it away to the psychic. That is, though, why you don’t charge psychics (@ 103) in the crime because they know what only the perpetrator is supposed to know, since that’s no longer true when the psychic cold reads the police.

    My guess would be that the psychic didn’t say only that there was a “V” (even though that wouldn’t be a bad guess for a teacher’s aid), but threw out at least two letters, like “V or an E”. Somehow spirits only know letters, never getting the name precisely, and it’s just a coincidence that it’s so much easier to guess a first letter than it is to guess a name.

    Glen Davidson
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  109. #109 EntoAggie
    June 19, 2008

    Moses @43:

    “One of the things I learned is that all allegations against a MAN are considered true. No matter how patently stupid they are.”

    Um….yeah.

    Moses, usually I enjoy your thoughts. But seriously, work through your issues, man.

  110. #110 Moses
    June 19, 2008

    I’d prefer that the school act, rather than not — and I’d rather have one hundred false alarms than one failure to act.

    Posted by: tony (Not a vegan) | June 19, 2008 10:52 AM

    That’s a goddamn load of crap, Tony. There is no ethical calculus that says it’s “okay to potentially ruin the lives of 100-families over obviously bullshit accusations” so we may save one by pure dumb luck.

    Each and every falsely accused family suffers tremendously over patently false allegations from unconnected third-parties such as these. The parents suffer. The children suffer. Dark clouds of suspicion follow them around like clouds. Personal and professional relationships are destroyed.

    All because a demented fuck-wit makes a PATENTEDLY FALSE accusation. And a series of gullible morons failed to exercise any care whatsoever.

    Let us remember:

    It was a PSYCHIC who had NO CONTACT WITH THE CHILD who made the accusation and the moronic TA forwarded it under her own name. It should have no more regard by the School’s Administration to initiate an investigation than if I called your children’s school and accused you of being a child molester because I had a “feeling.”

  111. #111 Kristine
    June 19, 2008

    But on the bright side, “psychic” Uri Geller has lost a lawsuit despite his ability to bend rules.

  112. #112 AndyD
    June 19, 2008

    Now that it’s in the news, I wonder how many credulous teachers and parents with kids at that school are mentally listing all the girls they can think of whose names begin with “V”. No doubt there’ll be a lot of whispers and sideways glances – “Psst, young Vera’s looking a bit depressed, maybe it’s her. And Valerie’s been paying very close attention to her teddy bear, do you think we should look into it? I saw the gardener talking to Vanessa yesterday – he gave her a flower… I think we’ve found the culprit.”

    If, as some posters have said, it is ALWAYS better to play it safe then any girl at the school, whose name starts with “V”, should have a file opened on her since we know from John Edward that sometimes the “voices” don’t relate directly to the person being read. Maybe the child is associated with a teaching colleague, rather than the TA.

  113. #113 B13
    June 19, 2008

    Bill Dauphin: So it’s alright with you that innocent people are falsely accused of horrific crimes, as long as they’re eventually cleared?

    No, dumbass, he simply criticized PZ for not reporting it accurately? Cripes, strawman much? You’re as fucked in the head as the teacher’s assistant in this story.

    I love when posters to a site that celebrate clear thinking demonstrate a complete lack of ability in that area. Note the multiple responses who thought the story took place in the USA because they didn’t read the actual facts. Real scientific method there, losers.

  114. #114 richard
    June 19, 2008

    I found a source (Ontario Ministry of Government Services) that says Victoria is the 14th most common baby’s name for females in Ontario. It’s an easy hit for “V”.

  115. #115 Matt Penfold
    June 19, 2008

    Richard Simons,

    I am not aware of that case, but there was a case in the UK few years ago involving so-called recovered memories. A young women saw a therapist who diagnosed repressed memories and performed hypnosis in order to recover then. Under hyponosis the woman claimed to have been raped by here father and gave a specific period of time when that occurred. The therapist reported the the case the police, who arrested the father. When the police bothered to collect evidence themselves they found the father had been working abroad during the entire period during which his daughter claimed he had been raping her. When the woman was examined by a competent psychiatrist it was found the father had been absent during large periods of the woman’s childhood, working abroad, and that the woman had resented his absence.

  116. #116 paul
    June 19, 2008

    Citizen Z @ #102: My earlier comment explicitly explains why the psychic might have been brought into it. The psychic might not even really exist. The TA may simply have been trying to make it look like she was not the sole accuser. This, I have been led to believe, is not uncommon in these types of situations.

  117. #117 Glen Davidson
    June 19, 2008

    As I have saying for a long time, the decline of organized religion in Europe and Canada has not necessarily led to a rise in rationalism. Rather, the vacuum left by the absence of traditional religion is filled by psychic nonsense, idiosyncratic mysticism, and pseudoscience.

    True enough. Superstition hardly died out in the Soviet Union, and indeed, studies of the space programs in both countries indicated that the Americans were less likely to avoid a launch or other significant operation on an “unlucky day” than the Soviets were.

    So I can’t say that the problem stems from faith being “touted as a virtue” (perhaps it could result from that, but I see no evidence for the claim). We’re superstitious primates, and the belief that we’re somehow naturally rational is at least as irrational as any other belief.

    Moreover, we’re coincidence seekers, but not perfect coincidence seekers. Therefore, when the psychic seems to know more than the psychic “should know” (and they are practiced at making that impression), the primate thinks that the psychic has a source of knowledge not available to itself. Ooh, I do have a “V” in my care, how could she know that? Well, if you keep track of the odds, and the guesses thrown out by the psychic (along with the nonverbal cues you’re giving), it’s not surprising. But we’ve all been fooled when we didn’t understand the odds, or the tactics of psychics, and in no society is everyone going to learn to see through the psychics.

    The problem is greater than that “faith is touted as a virtue”. Primates have to be taught to deal with the evidence properly, or they won’t do so when a charlatan is taking advantage of their innate abilities. Not all primates are able or willing to learn, however.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  118. #118 True Bob
    June 19, 2008

    Matt Penfold, that would be a case of Garrison’s Complaint.

  119. #119 BaldApe
    June 19, 2008

    Child abuse is a very serious crime; so serious that no mitigating circumstances at all should ever be considered, including innocence. [/sarcasm]

    I wonder if a law requiring psychics to be placed under oath, and then prosecuted for perjury, could pass?

  120. #120 CautiousSkeptic
    June 19, 2008

    Here’s a question?

    If the psychic said that a MALE, between 23 and 26, was the one abusing the child, why is everyone going after mom??? Last I checked, boobs and a vagina do not equal “man”, no matter what the age.

    I mean, it’s bad enough that they’re taking the word-THIRD HAND-of a psychic, but why did they go after mom???

  121. #121 Bill Dauphin
    June 19, 2008

    Bill Dauphin: So it’s alright with you that innocent people are falsely accused of horrific crimes, as long as they’re eventually cleared?No, dumbass, he simply criticized PZ for not reporting it accurately? Cripes, strawman much? You’re as fucked in the head as the teacher’s assistant in this story.

    Well, gee, since you put it so politely, I guess I should respond, eh?

    The key fact you’re missing is that this is a blog>, not a newspaper; “reporting it accurately” isn’t really the issue. I understand PZ to have posted the parts of the article that were material to his point… and given that he’s in the business of expressing his opinion, he’s under no obligation to do anything else. I don’t mean to put words in his mouth, but I took him to be commenting on the outrageousness of the original accusation, based as it was on psychic hooey. The fact that the mother was quickly cleared of any wrongdoing is good news for her, but doesn’t in any way mitigate the outrageousness of the original false accusation… which, I imagine, is why PZ chose not to dwell on that portion of the story.

    My point, which I believe is supportive of PZ’s, was that saying relatively little harm resulted from the investigation does not (as Dagger seems to suggest @76) mitigate the injustice of an innocent family being investigated based on ludicrously false claims.

    Nobody’s engaging in “incorrect reporting” here. The fact that you (or Dagger) can’t or won’t follow the logic doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

    [See how I managed to do that without calling you a dumbass or a loser, or saying you're fucked in the head? Fascinating how that works, eh?]

  122. #122 Epinephrine
    June 19, 2008

    While the reason presented was absurd (a psychic), I think the school administrators had to respond. As Paul (#75) points out, the psychic could be an “invention of the teaching assistant used to anonymize the accusation. Apparently this is fairly common in these kinds of situations – people are reluctant to be seen as a sole accuser”

    The school board has an employee making an observation about potential sexual abuse. They must report it. It’s not uncommon for people to lie – perhaps the TA was peeking in a window, and is ashamed to admit it? They can’t know *why* she said it was a psychic, and hence must treat it seriously, as an employee whom they presumably trust reporting something to them.

  123. #123 bybelknap, FCD
    June 19, 2008

    Some semi-random thoughts regarding classroom aids for special needs students:
    I worked for a dozen years as a Behavior Analyst. My specialty was working with children with autism with severe behavioral “challenges.” Some of my work was done in the natural home with parents, some in group homes and some in classrooms. I was a highly trained, highly skilled professional, using empirical methods of teaching and behavior change strategies and tactics. I barely made a living wage.

    We BA’s used to joke among ourselves when new hires – classroom aides, “houseparents” and others would come on board: “Have a pulse? You’re hired!”

    It is extremely difficult to find and keep people who have the intellectual and ethical chops to work as a potential punching bag for $6.50 an hour (or whatever the minimal wage is these days{yes, I wrote ‘minimal’ on purpose [and used nested parentheticals!]}). So “career” is a bit of a misnomer for classroom aide.

    Stop right there! I worked with a LOT of classroom aides who were smart and dedicated and did a fantastic job. They typically got promoted, moved on, found higher paying jobs – they do not stay as classroom aides for very long. No, in my experience the people who make “careers” at the entry level position of aide are there by inertia. they show up every day so are valuable because the most desperate need in human services is for bodies that show up.

    During the Clinton years, when there was “full employment” the joke shifted from “Got a Pulse?” to “Holy shit, which one is staff and which one is the client?” It was that bad. We were hiring people who had no business working with such vulnerable populations. Some of them probably could have used some services at home themselves.

    So it is unsurprising that a classroom aide could have the intellect of a gnat. She might even be a very effective aide, when she isn’t getting advice from psychics. But in human services, it was extremely rare for any aide, no matter how dumb, no matter how poorly he or she implemented the education plan, to get fired if they showed up all the time.

    Being there matters. Being smart? Not so much.

  124. #124 SteveM
    June 19, 2008

    The psychic might not even really exist. The TA may simply have been trying to make it look like she was not the sole accuser.

    I think that is PZ’s point. Why the hell should bringing a psychic into it give any more weight to her suspisions, or be considered as corroborating evidence? This is what PZ means by the “erosion of critical thinking”. Clearly, there was no critical thinking displayed by the school administration, an accusation has been made, must not question its validity in any way, just open an official investigation. All they needed to do was ask, “So, a psychic said so, hmmm, is there any tangible evidence of abuse?”

  125. #125 taliesin
    June 19, 2008

    @ #77 — Don’t know if this Criminal Code of Canada excerpt is strictly relevant, but potentially interesting…

    Pretending to practise witchcraft, etc.–s. 365

    365. Every one who fraudulently

    (a) pretends to exercise or to use any kind of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration,

    (b) undertakes, for a consideration, to tell fortunes, or

    (c) pretends from his skill in or knowledge of an occult or crafty science to discover where or in what manner anything that is supposed to have been stolen or lost may be found, is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

    R.S., c. C-34, s. 323.

    … and the ‘crafty science’ bit is at least amusing!

  126. #126 Matt Penfold
    June 19, 2008

    Epinephrine,

    Sorry, but if someone wants to make accusations of such a nature they do not get to lie about it. If there were sound reasons for suspecting abuse those reasons need to be given, otherwise there is no point in bringing those suspicions to the attention of the appropriate authorities. If there claim about the psychic was made up to cover other grounds for suspicion then the TA behaved reprehensibly. If she did not make the bit about the psychic up, then she still behaved reprehensibly. In either case she was less than honest and should no longer hold the position of trust she does.

    Unless someone can offer sound reasons for making an accusation of abuse then there is no reason to take that person seriously. In fact to do so is a form of abuse itself. This TA committed a form of child abuse in making unfounded accusations and should not only be facing loosing her job, but charges of abuse as well.

  127. #127 Scooty Puff, Jr.
    June 19, 2008

    This all stems from the fact that all educators are mandatory reporters. The idea is to take the question of legitimacy of any accusation out of the hands of educators, who are not necessarily qualified and may be under intense pressure from the suspected abuser — particularly if that person is a parent or guardian.

    This is a good system, with one exception. There needs to be a sanity check on these allegations before beginning an intrusive investigation. In this case, one aide reporting that a psychic told her a child with the first initial of a kid in her class is being abused does not constitute any kind of evidence.

    Sadly, for some schools, that does constitute evidence.

  128. #128 Citizen Z
    June 19, 2008

    The psychic might not even really exist. The TA may simply have been trying to make it look like she was not the sole accuser.

    This may be an explanation, in the same way that saying “The aide was gibbering idiot” is an explanation, but it isn’t a particularly satisfying explanation. If the TA didn’t want to be the only accuser, perhaps she could have asked a coworker, “Hey, what do you think is going on with that girl grabbing her crotch?”, instead of seeking corroboration at a Renaissance Fair.

  129. #129 SteveM
    June 19, 2008

    re 125:
    That is a very strangely worded statute (as they all are I suppose), but it seems to me that it is not outlawing “psychics” per se, but instead pretending to be a psychic as a way to explain how you just happen to know where the stolen cash is buried out in the woods, without admitting that you stole it and buried it there. But, IANAL, so I could be misinterpreting it.

    What amuses me is “fraudulently pretends to be..” as opposed to “genuinely pretends to be …”?

  130. #130 Bill Dauphin
    June 19, 2008

    taliesin (@125):

    I think that adverb “fraudulently” represents a pretty big loophole: IANAL, but it seems to that simply claiming to actually believe in your own witchcraft (or “crafty science”) would be a defense, since fraud requires deliberate deception. Unfortunately, just being self-deluded usually isn’t a crime.

  131. #131 Matt Penfold
    June 19, 2008

    Bill Dauphin,

    When it comes to fraud there normally does need to be evidence of intent. However there is a common law precedent, originating in England but applicable to Canada (and the US) that relied on a test of reasonableness when assessing if actions can be considered malicious rather than accidental. It stems from a case where a person set light to a haystack. The fire spread and damage adjoining properties. The person who set light to the haystack relied on a defence that they were stupid to know of the damage that might result. The judge rejected that defence and used the reasonableness test, and stated that all that needed to be shown was that a reasonable person would be aware of the possible damage. This was in a criminal case for arson. I think the parallels between the arsonist and the psychic and TA should be apparent.

  132. #132 Eamon Knight
    June 19, 2008

    Richard @104: Does anyone recall more of the details and know what became of this case?

    That was Martensville, SK. Link here, with no doubt further links:
    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2004/11/15/sask_martensville041115.html

    I recall the case — it was a classic witch-hunt in the best Salem tradition, with an ever-expanding circle of accused. In the end, one person was convicted IIRC of some minor offense not even related to the daycare situation. The investigators asked little kids all sorts of leading questions, and got a steadily-elaborating story of bizarre occurrences. I had little kids at the time, and I knew from experience how readily they answer “Yes” to any question, or just invent stuff on the fly. Professional investigators should know better.

  133. #133 khan
    June 19, 2008

    If the psychic said that a MALE, between 23 and 26, was the one abusing the child, why is everyone going after mom??? Last I checked, boobs and a vagina do not equal “man”, no matter what the age.

    I mean, it’s bad enough that they’re taking the word-THIRD HAND-of a psychic, but why did they go after mom???

    Colleen Leduc is a single mother, there was probably an assumption that she had a boyfriend who was doing the abusing.

  134. #134 Bill Dauphin
    June 19, 2008

    Speaking of “critical thinking”…. I live in the Hartford, CT, area, and you may have seen a story from a couple weeks ago that made the national news: A streetside security camera caught a car hitting a pedestrian and then driving off without stopping… after which several bystanders stood around and did nothing, ’til a cop car just happened by. There’s been a great deal of soul-searching and handwringing about what this event actually says about our society, and specifically our city.

    Well, today comes the inevitable: An LTTE in the a local paper blames our apparent callousness on belief in evolution/opposition to ID in schools! (See the second letter down.)

  135. #135 Dagger
    June 19, 2008

    Bill,

    I didn’t “suggest” anything. I pointed out a mistake based on the article that was written and linked. You shouldn’t presume to put words in anyone’s mouth other than your own. B13 is completely correct in diagnosing your argument as strawman tactics (although his language is more colorful than what I’d use). I just decided to take the bait in this case because I haven’t had a good argument in a while.

    Seems I still haven’t had a good argument.

  136. #136 windy
    June 19, 2008

    As I have saying for a long time, the decline of organized religion in Europe and Canada has not necessarily led to a rise in rationalism. Rather, the vacuum left by the absence of traditional religion is filled by psychic nonsense, idiosyncratic mysticism, and pseudoscience.

    The absence of religion leaving a “vacuum” is a loaded expression. A more neutral expression would perhaps be “niche”. Europeans are not desperately seeking to fill a religion-shaped hole.

  137. #137 Matt Penfold
    June 19, 2008

    I understand from several people here that the TA may have observed the girl behaving in a sexualized manner, such as rubbing herself and that this is not uncommon in autistic children around puberty. It has also been suggested that is this behaviour that may be behind the TA’s claims.

    This indicates a lack of professional knowledge in the TA. If such behaviour is common in autistic children nearing puberty then those involved in the care of such children should be aware of the fact. If staff working with such children are not aware of this behaviour then those charged with ensuring the staff at the school have been given the appropriate training have some questions to answer. If such behaviour was observed, and considered to be a cause for concern, then why the medical professionals in charge of the girls care not consulted. I would presume the school would be in frequent contact with them. If they were not then that is further evidence of abuse on the part of the school.

  138. #138 Montgomery Rockpython
    June 19, 2008

    Seems I still haven’t had a good argument.

    Yes you have.

  139. #139 SC
    June 19, 2008

    Bill Dauphin @ #134,

    What do you expect east of the river :)? Are you going to write a response?

  140. #140 scooter
    June 19, 2008

    considerable sum of money to not only have her child equipped with a GPS unit, but one that provided audio records of everything that was going on around her.

    I need to get one of those to wear on the weekends.

  141. #141 charfles
    June 19, 2008

    As if stories like this aren’t enough for people to realize that these beliefs go far beyond “harmless fun”, this story just popped up on CNN as I was reading this post:

    http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/06/19/faith.healer.deaths.ap/index.html

    and the AP version:
    http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5jB9FTepg826w9MnY6QGqu7sv0G5QD91CNAGG2

    From the article:

    “A 16-year-old boy whose parents rely on prayer instead of medical care has died after an illness marked by stomach pains and shortness of breath. Gladstone police say relatives and church members told them Tuesday that the teenager refused treatment for the illness, as he was entitled to do under Oregon law.”

    Irrationality kills.

  142. #142 Rob
    June 19, 2008

    Trying to find an email on their Simcoe County website. No luck. Anybody else?

  143. #143 Danio
    June 19, 2008

    charfles @ 141:

    this is a tragic story to be sure, but the Oregon law you refer to isn’t a religious shield law, as some may think, it’s actually a law that allows residents over 14 years of age to make decisions about their own health care. Being 16, this young man, under the law, had every right to refuse treatment. It’s unfortunate that he made this decision under the influence of such disgusting lies and dogma, but the law permitting older teens to make their own choices about medical care is pretty important for purposes of family planning, etc. as well as to serve the large number of homeless or otherwise at-risk youth in this state. I wouldn’t want it overturned.

    As it happens, the deceased 16 year old was the uncle of the infant who died earlier this year when her parents (members of same wackaloon cult, of course) refused to seek medical treatment for her illness. They ARE being prosecuted for her death.

  144. #144 Jim Lippard
    June 19, 2008

    Re: #75: I believe that police have sometimes used psychics for “evidence laundering”–to get a “psychic tip” about something that they already know via other means such as a poor quality informant or illegally obtained evidence. Sounds like you’re suggesting something similar in this case, where the psychic is used to support something that’s merely a hunch or suspicion.

  145. #145 Kristine
    June 19, 2008

    I love when posters to a site that celebrate clear thinking demonstrate a complete lack of ability in that area.

    It’s called trolling. Ignore.

  146. #146 Bacopa
    June 19, 2008

    So an autistic kid was touching hersel more? She’s exactly at an age when her genitals are developing into their adult shape and size, is experiencing increased blood flow there, and probably experiecing occasional arousal. Of course that would get her attention and sice she’s autistic, she hasn’t picked up on social cues about when would be an appropriate time to “investigate” what’s goin on.

    No, the precious little innocent couldn’t be having authentic sexual feelings. What an aberation. We must seek out the real cause!

  147. #147 clinteas
    June 19, 2008

    No 113 B13 babbled:

    //I love when posters to a site that celebrate clear thinking demonstrate a complete lack of ability in that area. Note the multiple responses who thought the story took place in the USA because they didn’t read the actual facts. Real scientific method there, losers.//

    Shitstir much moron? I read the actual facts and made a statement regarding me being in a different timezone to the US/Canada.
    PZ reported the story accurately,and Bill was pointing out that it is not good enough to accuse someone of sexual abuse based on some sky fairy story,even if that person gets off the hook eventually,and Moses’ story is a good example for that too.
    Anything for a cheap effect hey B13…..

  148. #148 --PatF in Madison
    June 19, 2008

    We can argue about what should have happened in this case and what actions should have been taken by the police, the school officials, the school board and anything else. Unfortunately, those actions have already been taken and the damage has been done and there is little anyone can do.

    However, we can send this article to our our local school boards and superintendents pointing out the damage done by a psychic, pointing out how hurt the child and mother were, pointing out that, as taxpayers, we do not want to be held liable for the actions of one idiot who makes a reckless charge. Then ask the board and officials to write a memo to their principals and teachers and anybody else who comes into contact with children telling them, in no uncertain terms, that, if they visit a psychic or other charlatan and then act on the charlatan’s advice in the classroom, they are taking their career in their hands and will be fired. (If any teacher complains about this policy, fire them now.)

    This won’t help Ms. LeDuc but it might prevent further incidents like this.

  149. #149 charfles
    June 19, 2008

    @Danio

    Right, I wasn’t talking about the irrationality of the law itself (I was just quoting a summarizing paragraph), but the beliefs that let to this kids death. The indoctrination he was subject to paved a direct path to his death.

    The CNN article has a comment from the medical examiner (after the autopsy) stating that a catheter would have saved his life.

  150. #150 negentropyeater
    June 19, 2008

    Bill #134,

    that letter was great because it kind of summarizes the way the deranged religious mind works :

    1) if you teach evolution, it’s “survival of the fittest”, and you should expect loads of hit and runs

    2) if you teach that we are god’s creation, it’s “love our neighbor as ourselves” and you won’t have any hit and runs
    QED

    When I read this kind of stuff, I don’t know what to do anymore.
    What can we do when people are so dumb and so ignorant, and they still feel compelled to write to the editor ?

  151. #151 Bill Dauphin
    June 19, 2008

    Dagger:

    I didn’t “suggest” anything. I pointed out a mistake based on the article that was written and linked.

    The point (“suggestion”) I attribute to you is implied by your characterization of it as a “mistake” that PZ didn’t mention part of the story. To paraphrase…

    PZ sed: Here’s an outrageous story about a false accusation.
    Dagger sed: No, no, you screwed up! You left out this part.

    Now, your assertion that PZ screwed up (i.e., “incorrect reporting,” “mistake”) only makes sense if you believe that the part he left out (i.e., that Leduc was quickly cleared) was material to the point he was trying to make (i.e., that the false accusation was outrageous and burdensome). That’s the “suggestion” I was attributing to you (and note that by doing so, I was charitably assuming you were making sense), and with which I was disagreeing.

    And no, BTW, I don’t agree that your original quibble about verb tense indicts PZ for “incorrect reporting,” either: Precisely when the investigation concluded is no more material than the fact that Leduc was cleared is to the fundamental injustice of the accusation/investigation happening in the first place.

    If you were falsely accused of a crime, and the cops came to your house and interrogated you, all based on “evidence” that any sane person would reject as specious on its face, I don’t think it would make you any less pissed off that the cops quickly figured out you were innocent. You’d be relieved that the harm to you was limited, of course, but that wouldn’t make the outrageous false accusation any less outrageous, or any less false.

    You shouldn’t presume to put words in anyone’s mouth other than your own.

    I don’t believe I’ve done so. I’ve made a good-faith effort to interpret your position, in order to respond to it… and I carefully (and deliberately) used conditional language to make it clear that’s what I was doing (i.e., “…as Dagger seems to suggest…”). If you believe I’ve misunderstood your position, the good-faith response would be to clarify or explain it; accusing me of arguing in bad faith is neither necessary nor (IMHO) warranted by my comments.

    BTW, regarding…

    Okay Bill, do something about it. I challenge you. Go ahead. Tell me what you can do about it.

    I’ve mentioned here several times how involved I am in local politics. My political colleagues and I “do something about” a wide variety of issues that face our community, and if we ever have a case like this in our town, you can bet your pluperfect ass we’ll do something about it!

    …if you think as a single individual you can solve all of societies problems, far be it for me to stand in your way.

    I think the only solutions we ever get for “societies [sic] problems” come from a synthesis of the acts of single individuals. Call me naive, but “government of the people, by the people, and for the people” actually means something to me. IMHO, people who say “yeah, it’s a problem, but there’s nothing I can do about it” are the problem.

    SC (@139):

    Are you going to write a response [to the creobot LTTE in the Journal Inquirer]?

    Dunno; Dagger says it won’t do any good. Whaddaya’ think? [/snark]

  152. #152 Ted Powell
    June 19, 2008

    PZ wrote [interpolations are mine]:

    Colleen Leduc has [present] an autistic child … She recently got [past] a terrifying phone call … So she rushes in [historical present] to this little meeting. … So Leduc now has [historical present] a file opened on her and is being investigated [historical present]. I am [present] astounded.

    #76 Dagger wrote:

    I’m a little disappointed in you PZ. … The story itself is enough to get people fired up. Doesn’t need any help with incorrect reporting. I’ll expect better of you in the future…

    The American Heritage® Dictionary wrote:

    historical present
    NOUN: The present tense used in the narration of events set in the past.
    OUR LIVING LANGUAGE: When telling stories about past events, people often switch into present tense, as in I was walking home from work one day. All of a sudden this man comes up to me and says…. This phenomenon, called the historical present, has a long history in English and is found in numerous other languages, both ancient and modern. Linguists have sometimes suggested that historical present makes stories more vivid primarily by bringing past actions into the immediate present. …

    Fortunately, this case of mistaken accusation is much less serious, with no requirement for a report to Literacy Aid!

  153. #153 Citizen Z
    June 19, 2008

    @Jim #144: I’ve also heard of that sort of thing, as well as the occassional case of the perpetrator themselves acting as a “psychic” and helping the authorities.

    But this case isn’t an example of that. There’s no point in using a psychic for anonymizing purposes, the same person who was in a position to observe signs of abuse was the one who went to the psychic. Hard to “anonymize” yourself when you’re the one bringing the tale of the psychic to the higher-ups yourself. It would be like bringing in mob informant, and instead of having him testify to incriminating conversations, have him describe a tarot card reading that suggests a gangster is guilty. It makes no sense.

  154. #154 Thrillhouse
    June 19, 2008

    I’ve never been to a psychic, but I really didn’t think they would tell people stuff like “that little girl you work with whose initial just popped into my head is being sexually abused.” I thought they focused on giving common sense advise dressed up with woo like “I see that if you work hard, your boss will think about giving you a promotion” or “if you start going to out different places to meet people, you may fall in love” and other stuff that probably couldn’t do too much damage. I don’t care what kind of amazing mental powers you think you have; you back up a charge like sexual abuse with a little more than a first initial and an age range.

  155. #155 tony (Not a vegan)
    June 19, 2008

    Moses @ 110: Your response that There is no ethical calculus that says it’s “okay to potentially ruin the lives of 100-families over obviously bullshit accusations” so we may save one by pure dumb luck. is exactly true.

    It’s unfortunate that you neglected to incorporate (or perhaps read) my caveat that essentially said the same thing – we do not live in anything approaching a rational world, so as you and I and others have said, the gumby’s ensure that you are guilty if accused.

    This is the stumbling block. I said I would rather the school act in all cases. I did not say this was a rational course of action in today’s world. In a rational world, such an investigation would be simply a matter of course in safeguarding children from predation.

    Unfortunately the fucktards have screwed with our system of values so much it’s impossible to be at all rational, and innocent until proven guilty and sub rosa proceedings are mere figments.

    In the end – I would much rather do the right thing and protect innocent children. The fact that our current civilisations do not allow that to happen in any rational way is a cause for sadness and a call to action – not simply an opportunity to accept it as the status quo.

  156. #156 Dr. Badd
    June 19, 2008

    Logical thought is a skill. If Canadian schools are like MN schools, then they can hardly afford all employees to possess it. In our school district, classroom aides are barely paid more than the lunch ladies. Too expect people who are paid $8.39 an hour to possess higher reasoning skills is quite a lot. (I’d be happy if they just used correct grammar around my kids.)

  157. #157 Mr. Barnard, room 12
    June 19, 2008
    Seems I still haven’t had a good argument.

    Yes you have.

    No, he hasn’t.

  158. #158 JStein
    June 19, 2008

    I’m not an expert, but I’m pretty sure this is illegal. And if I were Mrs. Leduc, I would be filing a serious lawsuit right now to shut this bullshit down.

  159. #159 SteveM
    June 19, 2008

    A streetside security camera caught a car hitting a pedestrian and then driving off without stopping… after which several bystanders stood around and did nothing, ’til a cop car just happened by.

    There are also reports that the police did indeed receive 911 calls from bystanders with cell phones. And if you time the video, the police were there pretty darn quickly. As for “apparent callousness” of the bystanders, there are two ways to look at that as well, the cynical view is that people are afraid of “good samaritan liability”, getting sued for helping someone. The (maybe overly) generous view is that it is actually extrememly dangerous to move someone that has been in such a violent accident and it is best to wait for an ambulance and trained ERT’s to move the person.
    The only thing I found shocking about that video was the initial collision, apparently due to two cars racing and running from the scene without even a pause.

  160. #160 bybelknap, FCD
    June 19, 2008

    Mr Barnard, you stupid git, you’re in 12A – just along the corridor.

  161. #161 Bill Dauphin
    June 19, 2008

    SteveM (@159):

    Yah, there’s been a great deal of discussion here about whether this incident was really as bad as it looked, including many of the points you raise. Regardless of how bad it really was or wasn’t though, I’m thinking it’s a stretch to attribute any aspect of this event to what’s being taught in high-school biology classes! ;^)

  162. #162 Kseniya
    June 19, 2008

    You know, Bill, before Darwin, the world was full of people who never failed to stop to help a stranger in need, regardless of the inconvenience or risk to themselves. It’s right there in The Bible, you know, that Good Samaritan thing, where everyone stopped and helped the crime victim who was down and injured at the side of the road, until the Samaritan came by and… wait, wait, I think I got it wrong. Hang on a sec…

  163. #163 Bill Dauphin
    June 19, 2008

    Kseniya:

    I’d say you won the thread (@162), but everbody knows I’m biased when it comes to you!

  164. #164 Kseniya
    June 19, 2008

    Holy Crap! I was wrong! The Good Samaritan story is about how a guy got attacked by robbers, and was lying there at the side of the road, and was passed over by both a Priest (!) and a Levite, but a Samaritan – who in the culture of the time would not be expected to lift a finger in the aid of a Jew – stopped and gave the victim first aid, took him to an inn to recuperate, and paid the innkeeper for room and board…

    So I guess this means that even in the time of Jesus, long before Charles Darwin was even born, people weren’t inclined to stop and help a stranger in need. I think maybe that was the whole point of the story Jesus told! Wow!

    I’m shocked, shocked,, to discover that, even in Connecticut, anti-evolution persons of faith are clueless and completely full of shit! My world is falling apart, here – help me, help me… aaauuggghhh…

  165. #165 Azkyroth
    June 19, 2008

    Children have to be protected, PZ

    ACT first.

    Ask your questions later.

    Why would you proved ANY support to a possible abuser?

    Because needlessly dragging a child and family through the trauma of an investigation is arguably abusive?

    Because destroying lives with baseless accusations is, you know, wrong?

    Because, I hate to break it to you, but people who file charges against other people don’t always do it in good faith?

    Because abandoning the rule of law every time someone’s accused of something really icky WILL create a culture that is extremely destructive to everyone, including children?

    If you’re too fucking stupid to see any of these, I hope you never become a parent.

    Why are YOU providing support to people who are by negligence guilty of genuine abuse?

  166. #166 DJStuCrew
    June 19, 2008

    My lawyer and I would OWN that school. :)

  167. #167 Kseniya
    June 19, 2008

    I’m biased when it comes to you, too, Bill, but of course that’s just New England tribalism showing its ugly face, and we should be very, very ashamed of ourselves for succumbing to it.
    :-)

  168. #168 Kristine
    June 19, 2008

    Why would you proved ANY support to a possible abuser?

    *Winks at Azkyroth* Now put your hand to your forehead and let’s both ‘fess up:

    Because we’re worse than child molesters, that’s why!

    I mean, defending the rights of the accused (of any “possible” crime) isn’t Constitutional or anything. Right?

    Trolls. Ignore. *Snore*

  169. #169 Kristine
    June 19, 2008

    Speaking of create a culture that is extremely destructive to everyone, including children, as Azkyroth wisely notes: Remember “Satanic ritual abuse?”

    Boy, people really did a public service by taking that at face value, right? We did it for the children! And what a mess. Ruined people’s lives.

    This “psychic” case is just another twist on that, and on claims of “abuse” via “facilitated communication.” Superstition is superstition and needs to be pointed out.

    That’s why we’re here.

  170. #170 Jud
    June 19, 2008

    There was quite a movement years ago to “facilitated communication” for autistic children, where the facilitation consisted of an adult helping the autistic child use a Ouija board to respond to questions, in order to determine (supposedly) what the non-verbal child was trying to communicate.

    This led quickly to a veritable epidemic of accusations of child molestation, with at least one instance of a father being barred from seeing his daughter for several months, based solely on Ouija-board “evidence.”

    Scientific experiments were then performed, where for example different pictures were shown to the child and facilitator, and the pair were then asked to name, by means of facilitated communication, the picture shown to the child. I am shocked (shocked!) to report that this never, ever resulted in correctly naming the picture shown to the child, but often resulted in correctly naming the picture shown to the facilitator.

    So what does this, in connection with PZ’s post above, show? Simple: People have dirty minds. Even in the most innocuous and wholesome situations, if imagination and rumor are unconstrained by any effective tests for reliability, it will take no time at all for accusations of sexual misbehavior to fly, be widely credited, and be acted upon.

  171. #171 AJ Milne
    June 19, 2008

    Re Live by gullibility, die by gullibility…

    (Moans, clutches table…)

    Wait! Wait! I’m getting somethin’… My deceased Uncle Moe sez… Sez…

    (Gasps, collapses on table dramatically. Quivers, briefly. Raises head again…)

    Moe sez his inside information from The World Beyond is there’s a fortune teller working in Barrie or thereabouts–first name starts with A… or B… or somethin’ between A and Z, anyway–who’s having sex with goats. Should probably be investigated for bestiality or sumpin’. Or just for annoying the goats with incredibly disappointing sexual performance (Moe has the inside story on this, too… I won’t get into details).

    Anyway, mebbe someone should call the cops. Jes’ sayin’.

  172. #172 Carlie
    June 19, 2008

    Sidetracking on the New Hartford story, to all the excuses about people worrying about moving the person and causing more damage I say bullshit. It doesn’t hurt the person to run out and fucking stop the traffic so no one else accidentally hits him too. It doesn’t hurt him to run out and tell him help is on the way. I understand being in shock, but that was appalling. Perhaps instead of school assemblies about abstinence-only education, which many schools have, our kids would be better served with assemblies on what to do in an emergency.

  173. #173 SC
    June 19, 2008

    but of course that’s just New England tribalism showing its ugly face

    Incidentally, my mother, who’s nearing 70, was just deployed to a Red Cross center in Wisconsin. No one needs to challenge Yankees to “do something.” Our widows are doing something. Pull that “there isn’t one damn thing you or I can do about it” nonsense around here and expect to be laughed out of town.[/irrational regional, rational family pride]

  174. #174 Epinephrine
    June 19, 2008

    Because needlessly dragging a child and family through the trauma of an investigation is arguably abusive?

    Because destroying lives with baseless accusations is, you know, wrong?

    Because, I hate to break it to you, but people who file charges against other people don’t always do it in good faith?

    Because abandoning the rule of law every time someone’s accused of something really icky WILL create a culture that is extremely destructive to everyone, including children?

    If you’re too fucking stupid to see any of these, I hope you never become a parent.

    Why are YOU providing support to people who are by negligence guilty of genuine abuse?

    I am a parent.

    There was no “trauma” of an investigation here. They did exactly what was mandated by law – they came, confirmed that it was BS, and left.

    CAS apparently doesn’t have to be traumatic, I’ve spoken to parents who have had visits, and they said that it was rather painless – of course, they weren’t guilty of anything.

    My wife was told off for having disciplined one of our children in a shopping mall (not physically, a good talking to and removal from the store for whining to get something). The lady said that she would call CAS.

    My wife was initially shocked that anyone could be that dumb, but calmly said, “If you truly feel that I am abusing my daughter, please do. I’ll happily wait here to speak with them.” I think her attitude is exactly right, and she’s stronger than I am. I’d have had trouble, but we should be willing to stand up and defend our behaviours, and if someone witnesses what they really think is abuse, they should call it in.

    I agree that people don’t always do things like report people in good faith, but people I’ve spoken to have agreed that the system seemed to work well enough for them. Investigate first, then if the charge seems to stem from mischief or stupidity, level charges of slander/public mischief at the accuser.

  175. #175 SC
    June 19, 2008

    Hmmm. Perhaps this particular thread wasn’t the best place for a Yankee pride rant…

    Yeah, probably not.

  176. #176 Kseniya
    June 19, 2008

    Carlie:

    Perhaps instead of school assemblies about abstinence-only education, which many schools have, our kids would be better served with assemblies on what to do in an emergency.

    Right on!

    For example, a baggie, or the finger of a latex glove, can serve as an impromptu prophyla-

    What? Not that kind of emergency? Oh.

    Never mind! :-)

    Seriously, that’s a great idea. People’s priorities sure get out of whack when sex gets thrown into the mix. Sheesh.

  177. #177 Skwee
    June 19, 2008

    Why aren’t the teacher or aide named in any of the articles? Everyone else is, from the school administrators to the case worker. Screw the innocent, but, by God, we’ll protect the guilty, I guess.

    Why isn’t the PSYCHIC named?!

  178. #178 JM Inc.
    June 19, 2008

    Wow, this is right in my back yard. Somebody needs to pay through the nose for this profound lapse of both intellect and protocol at a school. It’s hard enough to believe that people actually buy into this psychic crap, but for the school administration to do also is absurd. My (hypothetical) kid would be out of there so fast, if it were me.

  179. #179 Brownian, OM
    June 19, 2008

    For example, a baggie, or the finger of a latex glove, can serve as an impromptu prophyla-

    I tried that with leftover baggies from lunch, and now my pee-pee’s covered in PB&J.

    Ray Comfort is wrong; life most definitely can arise in a jar of Jif.

  180. #180 Bill Dauphin
    June 19, 2008

    CAS apparently doesn’t have to be traumatic, I’ve spoken to parents who have had visits, and they said that it was rather painless – of course, they weren’t guilty of anything.

    I guess it depends on the context of the visit. Assuming CAS also does home visits for things like determining the fitness of prospective adoptive or foster parents, I can see where that might be relatively painless. But I’m a parent, too, and if somebody came to my house and accused me and my wife of abusing our daughter — or of knowingly allowing anyone else to — I think we’d find the mere fact of the accusation pretty damn traumatic. The fact that we’re totally innocent of any such charge would add fear of being railroaded on top of the inherently traumatic nature of the accusation.

    I don’t disagree that folks should be willing to stand up for their behavior… but there’s a difference between reasonable accountability and being jacked up by baseless accusations on the random whim or (as in this case) bizarre superstitions of others.

    I also think your argument sounds dangerously similar to the “innocent people should have nothing to fear” arguments often used to minimize all sorts of abuses of power by law enforcement.

    Clearly children, who are relatively helpless compared to adults, merit extra protection under the law, including sometimes protection even from their own parents… but precisely because our instinct to protect our children is so strong, we must be constantly on guard against overreaching or hysteria. (For example, are you really saying the threat of being investigated by your government because your wife scolded your child doesn’t send even a small chill up your spine?)

    Maybe I’m just a bit more sensitive on this point than usual, owing to the chillingly narrow escape habeas corpus had in our (semi)Supreme Court last week!

  181. #181 Julie Stahlhut
    June 19, 2008

    Glad to hear that cooler heads have prevailed and Ms. Leduc is no longer being harassed. As for the woo-headed teacher’s aide, maybe she needs to have this song blasted at her through speakers twice as large as the ones that were used to harass Manuel Noriega:

    http://www.oldielyrics.com/lyrics/sparks/i_predict.html

  182. #182 cthulhus minion
    June 19, 2008

    A couple of years ago the bass player in my band got hit with an accusation of molestation after his wife had a dispute with a truely worthless woman on yahoo chat. Even worse, since the woman in question lived out of state the police didnt file charges.

  183. #183 Kseniya
    June 19, 2008

    [Thinks to self, I sure do like it when Kristine drops in.]

    Ray Comfort is wrong; life most definitely can arise in a jar of Jif.

    Ya think? Just wait ’til you try Plumpy’nut.

    On the other hand, Peter Pan refuses to grow up.

    There’s some kind of paradox in all this. I just can’t put my finger on it.

  184. #184 True Bob
    June 19, 2008

    Perhaps instead of school assemblies about abstinence-only education, which many schools have, our kids would be better served with assemblies on what to do in an emergency.

    Like, maybe it would be a good idea to train CPR in PE Scoob!

  185. #185 bio teacher
    June 19, 2008

    In my state, children with really specialized needs of this sort are sent, on the school district’s dime, to an appropriate facility where people who are highly trained in the appropriate therapies school the children. California needs to get with it. Services for disabled children are the school district’s responsibility, not a struggling single mother’s!

    Oh, and listen to a psychic? Well, that’s simply preposterous!

  186. #186 bio teacher
    June 19, 2008

    oops, this happened in canada not california..I just skimmed the article. Anyway, they need to get with it and provide services for disabled children in public schools!

  187. #187 Brownian, OM
    June 19, 2008

    Just wait ’til you try Plumpy’nut.

    I was just about to say the same thing.

    There’s some kind of paradox in all this. I just can’t put my finger on it.

    Take off the latex glove first.

  188. #188 Epinephrine
    June 19, 2008

    oops, this happened in canada not california..I just skimmed the article. Anyway, they need to get with it and provide services for disabled children in public schools!

    We had pretty good special needs programs in Ontario, until we got a useless conservative premier. It’ll be a long time recovering from Harris.

  189. #189 Some Canadian Skeptic
    June 19, 2008

    I’m glad to see so many skeptic blogs picking up this story.

    I blogged about this two days ago, and I’m trying to launch an email campaign to embarass the school board: get them to publically apologize to the mother and ontario tax payers (by having this public institution succumb to such insanity, this is an effective government endorsement of psychics, and then they can make whatever charges they want), launch criminal charges against the psychic, and compensate the mother.

    So please, everyone, visit my blog entry on the topic, and write a letter to the school board. I’ve provided all the relevant contact information so all you got to do is write and send.

    http://somecanadianskeptic.blogspot.com/2008/06/psychics-and-sex-and-autism-oh-my.html

    Lets not let them get away with this!

  190. #190 JoJo
    June 19, 2008

    I forget who said it, George Carlin possibly, but the question has been asked “Has a psychic ever won the lottery?”

  191. #191 red rabbit
    June 19, 2008

    Welcome to the Canadian Bible Belt. It blew my mind to work in Barrie as a doc. You know, you can’t get an abortion in Barrie, because even the damn gynecologists are on board with the credulity. This place makes me crazy.

  192. #192 Monado
    June 19, 2008

    The educational assistant should at least have a reprimand put into her file, if she isn’t fired.

    Luckily for women in Barrie, Godless Toronto is just down the road. You can’t get an abortion in Prince Edward Island, either, and there’s no easy, inconspicuous way to go elsewhere. If your health insurance will cover the “elsewhere.” Unless Dr. Morgentaler has worked his heroic magic again and raised up a clinic against the “every sperm is sacred” faction.

    Psychics’ windows should be attracting rocks with notes wrapped around them reading, “You knew this was coming, right?”

  193. #193 Tabby Lavalamp
    June 19, 2008

    AllanW (#25): “Infringing this psychics freedom of expression won’t help.”

    The “psychic” told a lie that caused distress and legal proceedings. Freedom of expression has legal limits, and I’d be interested to see if the scam artist crossed those limits in a court of law.

  194. #194 Monado
    June 19, 2008

    Taliesin [125], that’s why the reading is “free” and the cup of tea is $35.

  195. #195 Kevin Whitefoot
    June 19, 2008

    #25 Infringing.

    Bollocks! It’s the same as shouting fire in a cinema. Freedom of expression has nothing to do with it.

  196. #196 Dagger
    June 19, 2008

    Dear Bill and Ted (okay I know there’s a joke in there but I’m not going to take it),

    My original statement was not addressed to either of you. It was addressed to PZ (whom I have a great deal of respect for). It is up to him to interpret what I meant. Not you. Who do you think you are anyway? PZ’s great defenders? Please… being a sceptic does not mean taking anyone’s word, spoken or written, for blind fact or blind truth and it certainly provides everyone the right to ask questions and make clarifications. Happens all the time. If you can’t deal with that, I humbly suggest trying another board.

    My original statement was put in (if you’d bothered to ask why) specifically to head off the inevitable CAS bashing that goes along with anytime they are mentioned unfavourably in an article. I have a vested interest to do so. If you don’t like it, fine, but save the personal character assassinations and condecending tones. They are neither warranted nor appreciated and they make you look foolish. If you can’t argue your point without doing so and without resorting to strawman tactics, then your words will never carry any weight. No matter your intentions.

    And remember Bill, your the one who took the conversation down this path, not I. But to be fair, my mistake was actually responding to you. I should have known better. People like you always tend to blow things so far out of proportion that the orginal intention can no longer be descerned as I expect your response to be should you chose to comment on this. Rest assured, you will get the last word in on this.

    (p.s. What exactly is a pluperfect ass?)

  197. #197 Carlie
    June 19, 2008

    baggies = rough seams = bad.
    And don’t try a pb&j covered one in case of allergies – you really don’t need to start an anaphylactic reaction from that particular spot.

  198. #198 Azkyroth
    June 19, 2008

    Please… being a sceptic does not mean taking anyone’s word, spoken or written, for blind fact or blind truth and it certainly provides everyone the right to ask questions and make clarifications. Happens all the time. If you can’t deal with that, I humbly suggest trying another board.

    You know, from my perspective, that…doesn’t…seem to be the issue here. And it, you know, seems like it’d be kind of obvious to anyone arguing in good faith that it wasn’t.

    Just sayin’.

  199. #199 Sven DiMilo
    June 19, 2008

    re: the baggies & glove tangent:
    Anybody else familiar with the Fugs classic “Saran Wrap”?

  200. #200 Bill Dauphin
    June 19, 2008

    For example, a baggie, or the finger of a latex glove, can serve as an impromptu prophyla-

    Funnily enough, several years ago I bought some finger protectors for use in craft applications (e.g., with epoxies, which are allergenic). They’re equivalent to single latex glove fingers… but they come rolled up, and resemble nothing so much as half-scale condoms. Mucho potential for humor there!

  201. #201 Dr Benway
    June 19, 2008

    I feel sorry for the mother. I also feel sorry for the ignorant wage slave TA. Don’t sue the crap out of her.

    People in entry level social service jobs typically have some common sense but are admonished by their superiors not to make decisions. Kid scratches a knee? Don’t assume you know what to do; call the nurse! Slowly the repeated reminders of incompetence turn their brains to goo.

    In the US the mandatory reporting laws confuse a lot of people. Many childcare workers believe they must report the slightest suspicion of abuse. They’re told that reporters are immune from civil or criminal prosecution, while failure to report will result in death, or something nearly like death.

    The ignorance around us is vast and deep. We can’t sue it into submission.

  202. #202 cureholder
    June 19, 2008

    #59: The only problem with a slander suit is that the “person” slandered (i.e., accused of something damaging to the reputation) doesn’t actually exist. The mother wasn’t slandered (as it is not defamatory to be said to have a child who was abused), and neither was the daughter (as it is not defamatory to be abused, at least under the law).

    The newspaper article dropped my jaw a few times, continually referring to a “psychic” rather than a “purported psychic” or “alleged psychic.” Or maybe just “con artist.” The writer then calls this charlatan a “rather dubious source.” Rather? The alleged psychic is NO SOURCE AT ALL.

    In addition, the writer just mouthed the “reasonable grounds” requirement, apparently not realizing that the word “reasonable” actually means something. The writer simply says, “Well, there were grounds, maybe “dubious” ones.” That’s exactly why they include the word “reasonable” in rules like this one–to prevent someone from just making something up and asserting it.

    Major kudos to the mom for having the GPS and sound recordings. Now let’s fire everyone at the school who didn’t IMMEDIATELY stop this thing from progressing, and let’s bring criminal charges against the so-called educational aide. Bad enough that she is GOING to purported psychics, but to actually act to someone else’s detriment based on nothing more? This lunacy simply cannot be tolerated. Someone can undoubtedly find something to charge her with, at least to get her out of that job and away from children.

    Off subject a bit, but does anyone have contact info for the mom? I’d like to do a little something to alleviate her current financial circumstances.

  203. #203 Steve
    June 19, 2008

    Ugh, how embarassing. I *live* in Barrie, Ontario. This fiasco gives the town a bad name. DX

    There’s a Psychic place right around the corner from where I live… I can’t help but wonder if it’s THE psychic…

  204. #204 Rick
    June 19, 2008

    About 22 years ago, there was a scandal here in Los Angeles called the McMartin Pre-School Case.

    Police, child “psycologists”, hysterical parents, and the general public essentially lynched the operators of an innocent pre-school. Rumors were launched and spiraled into heights of nonsense about Satanism, ritual abuse, sexual abuse, etc.

    The operators of the pre-school fought the case, and very successfully. The accusers were eventually embarrassed, and the operators vindicated. Still, there were many who insisted that, because they had been accused, they must be guilty. Here in America. It was somewhat of a triumph of emotion over reason, and a shameful forgetting of the presumption of innocence.

    At least there were no psychics involved… at least as I remember.

    ECV

  205. #205 Meraydia
    June 19, 2008

    I’m still gobsmacked that this happened in Canada, in my TOWN! But then again, I probably shouldn’t be. Totally seconding you there Steve…

  206. #206 Azkyroth
    June 19, 2008

    The only problem with a slander suit is that the “person” slandered (i.e., accused of something damaging to the reputation) doesn’t actually exist. The mother wasn’t slandered (as it is not defamatory to be said to have a child who was abused), and neither was the daughter (as it is not defamatory to be abused, at least under the law).

    There was clearly an implication of the mother’s complicity in the abuse. Wouldn’t that qualify?

  207. #207 Mooser, Bummertown
    June 19, 2008

    Posted by: Moses

    You married her, Moses. So at one time whatever her disabilities were seemed to you to be an asset, pal. So I wouldn’t brag about it. And what a compassionate way to respect her privacy and her troubles.
    But tell me, how often do you dine out on that story?

  208. #208 Bill Dauphin
    June 19, 2008

    Dagger:

    It is up to [PZ] to interpret what I meant. Not you.

    I’m sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. These comments threads are public conversation; if you intended to be having a private exchange with PZ, you should’ve e-mailed him.

    …save the personal character assassinations …

    …strawman tactics…
    …my mistake was actually responding to you. … People like you…

    “People like” me?? Personal character assassinations? I’m really puzzled by your reaction to this thread. Evidently we disagree even more strongly than I had realized, but even so I’m baffled as to why this has touched such a raw nerve for you.

    The only namecalling or even mildly abusive language in this whole exchange was aimed at me, and came from a third-party commenter (B13). I honestly don’t believe I’ve engaged in the sort of bad-faith arguing you’ve accused me of (i.e., character assassination and strawman tactics)… certainly I haven’t intentionally done so. On the contrary, I’ve tried to be scrupulously clear and straightforward in my arguments. As far as I know, nobody’s keeping score here, and no fabulous prizes are at stake; there’s absolutely no incentive for me to try to “win” the argument on false pretenses. Finally, I haven’t even mildly criticized CAS, much less “bashed” it. I have no opinion whatsoever about CAS per se (and how could I, since I know nothing about them); my critique in this matter has been limited to the individuals who took a psychic’s word on such a serious matter, and to the legal structures that compelled the school to give credence to such a specious accusation… neither of which criticism reflects on CAS in any way (AFAIK).

    My disagreements with you have been only these:

    [a] I don’t not believe PZ was in any way deceptive or “incorrect” in his original presentation of the article. He presented the parts of the story he intended to comment on, and nothing he omitted in any way discredited his comments.

    [b] I don’t believe that Ms. Leduc’s quick exoneration mitigates the injustice of the original false accusation (which is what I honestly believed you to be saying in the first comment of yours to which I responded).

    [c] I don’t believe that individuals in a democratic society are powerless in the face of social problems.

    Obviously you feel strongly about these matters, but nothing I’ve said is (or has been intended to be) an ad hominem attack on you.

    Rest assured, you will get the last word in on this.

    Oh, I hope not. I’m genuinely confused about why you’ve taken this so personally, and hope you’ll try to explain. While I enjoy the intellectual exercise of a good argument, I have no interest in fighting, and didn’t mean to be doing so.

    PS:

    What exactly is a pluperfect ass?

    “Pluperfect” is actually a grammatical term… nonsensical in this usage, but I just like the sound of the word, and have a bad habit of tossing it in as a kind of sound effect. (Try reading the sentence out loud and you’ll see what I mean.) Sorry for any confusion.

  209. #209 Azkyroth
    June 19, 2008

    You married her, Moses. So at one time whatever her disabilities were seemed to you to be an asset, pal. So I wouldn’t brag about it. And what a compassionate way to respect her privacy and her troubles.

    Somehow, I don’t find it that incredible that she didn’t start off their relationship with “oh, by the way, sweetie, I have Borderline Personality Disorder with Paranoid features, and if our relationship ever ends I’m going to completely lose it.”

    Also, do you actually consider it unreasonable to be angry at being intrusively investigated on the grounds of obviously false accusations of child abuse?

  210. #210 Kseniya
    June 20, 2008

    Yeah, Moses – shame on you! You’re one of the most famous Biblical figures of all time. How dare you so cavalierly blow your ex-wife’s anonymity like that!

    O_o

    Mooser, what’s going on? I don’t see where you’re coming from with this. Are you married? Ever been? If so, did you find out anything about your spouse that you didn’t know about before you tied the knot and/or moved in together? Did your relationship change in any significant way, subsequent to that profound change in the status of your relationship? Did you discover things about yourself, both good and bad, that you hadn’t even realized were in there, but which came to light under the sometimes harsh scrutiny which marriage imposes on its participants, with or without their consent?

    Know anything about BPD? Do you think there’s any chance that a person who suffers from a Cluster B personality disorder (as opposed to Cluster A) might be able to effectively hide it for a while from an acquaintence, friend, or love interest? I assure you, the chance is greater than none.

    Listen… I’m far from unsympathetic to her struggles, and I’d even venture a guess that Moses isn’t, either, at least on some levels, despite the shit he’s got to work through himself. But the fact remains: She tried to ruin his reputation and destroy his relationship with his child, out of spite, with nothing more substantial than a lie and a facade of outrage. She failed. Isn’t that how it should be? And I must agree with Azkyroth – Moses has a right to be pissed off. I hope he works through it eventually, though. Anger can be a powerful motivator, but over time, it turns to acid…

  211. #211 Jim Lippard
    June 20, 2008

    #153: I agree that this case doesn’t look like “evidence laundering” except for the common component of “getting confirmation of what I suspect by going to a psychic and having them tell me what I want to hear.”

  212. #212 Bill Dauphin
    June 20, 2008

    Arrgh! Please ignore the double-negative in point [a] of my post @208. I blame incomplete/interrupted real-time rewriting.

  213. #213 Dagger
    June 20, 2008

    Okay Bill, since you asked so nicely, how can I refuse, but let’s get a few things out of the way first.

    1) I despise psychics. I rank them somewhere near the bottom of the evolutionary ladder, close to, but beneath pond scum.

    2) I despise injustice, especially of those who become embroiled innocently into something not of their own making, but more so, I despise those people who say they do but aren’t willing to do anything about it. (though you were one of those – sorry)

    3) I firmly believe that we have to continually question our peer and leaders, no matter who they are, what capacity they are acting in or what they say or do. Complacency or blind acceptance is foolhearty to say the least.

    Okay, now that that’s clear, let’s continue.

    I directed my comments directly to PZ. Yes, I could have emailed him, but I’m lazy. It’s easier to type in a forum I’m reading than to compose an email in a program I’m not.

    At that point, you decided to comment based on my statement “The article clearly stated that CAS did investigate, as is their mandate for all claims no matter how incredulous, and then immediately closed the file.”

    How in heck do you get “So it’s alright with you that innocent people are falsely accused of horrific crimes, as long as they’re eventually cleared?” I’m mean really, if that isn’t a strawman, what is? Nowhere in my statement did I remotely say or even suggest anything of the sort.

    Okay now let me address your points.

    a) Refer to my 3rd point. I believe that the statement, as it was writen “So Leduc now has a file opened on her and is being investigated.”, can be (no matter what type of english you use) construed to mean that the CAS investigation was ongoing. The statement was dangling (look that up Ted), it had no closure based on the original linked document that clearly stated the CAS investigated, discover the complaint had no merit, closed the file.

    Okay, I’ll admit I’m a little sensitive to CAS bashing, hence my original statement, but come on, you have to admit that that can easily be taken out of context.

    b) Hmmm. No, that’s not what I said at all. In fact I never mentioned that it was in anyway an injustice. It was, but I never mentioned it. All I pointed out was that the agency in Canada, who’s mandate is to protect children from abuse, did their job and did it efficiently. It appears that your looking to assign blame for the situation and I don’t have an issue with that, but the blame in this case lies with the TA who visited a psychic (see 1st point again). Cause and effect.

    c) I disagree. Individuals in a Democratic Society are powerless. Groups of individuals however are not. The distinction is important. Groups of individuals lend power to an individual to effect change. Usually this breaks down into the term “majority rules”. Something, as we’ve seen over the past eight years or so, that doesn’t always work.

    So that sums it up from my perspective. As to why I got angry about it in later posts, well that reflects back to my 3rd point again. I will always reserve the right to question. When someone tells me I can’t or shouldn’t, I tend to get a little hot under the collar.

    By the way, that’s an interesting word and one I’d not heard before. Appreciate the explanation.

  214. #214 Ted Powell
    June 20, 2008

    #196 Dagger wrote:

    Dear Bill and Ted … My original statement was not addressed to either of you.

    “I wasn’t talking to you!!!” is more commonly heard on the playground. The fact of the matter is that you chose to chide PZ, in a condescending way, in front of all of us. Your accusation of “incorrect reporting” appears to have been founded on either a too-hasty reading of the article or a limited command of English. Either way, you were off base IMO.

    Would it really have been so hard for you to have written something like: “PZ, it looks to me as if you are saying Leduc’s file is still open and she is still being investigated. I don’t believe that’s so. Is it what you meant?”

    Who do you think you are anyway?

    A regular reader and occasional contributor. If you have specific issues with my #152, I suggest that it would be more fruitful for you to state them, rather than taking the approach that you have.

  215. #215 Dagger
    June 20, 2008

    Ted,

    First, I’m pretty sure PZ can fight his own non existant delusional battles without your assistance. Yes, that is a shot at you directly and not PZ, just so you don’t get confused again.

    Second, don’t presume to tell me how or what to write. If you can’t get the concept or refute the issue without getting all condesending and indignant, that’s your deficiency. Not mine.

    Third, please feel free to not address me personally anymore. I’m not in the mood to assuage your misplaced moral superiority complex.

  216. #216 Bill Dauphin
    June 20, 2008

    Dagger:

    I think the fog is beginning to lift here. Based on your latest explanation, it seems you interpreted PZ’s post as criticizing CAS for running an apparently open-ended investigation, when in fact the investigation had been swiftly concluded (I agree with you that Ted’s grammatical analysis is a stretch). In that context, I understand that your comments about the quick closure of the investigation (and PZ’s failure to mention same) as a defense of CAS.

    However, I don’t think PZ was criticizing CAS at all. I think he only mentioned the existence of the investigation as an example of the harm caused by the false accusation; as the mere fact of being investigated was bad enough, the closure status of the investigation was extraneous and immaterial to his argument. Without access to your internal thought processes, I heard a conversation that seemed to be offering the quick exoneration as mitigation of the false accusation’s harm… a conversation that could be paraphrased as:

    PZ: This false accusation is really bad. It even caused this poor woman to be investigated.
    Dagger: Yeah, but the investigation was over really quickly. You didn’t tell anyone that, did you?

    IOW, you seemed to be saying the quick exoneration meant the fact of being investigated on false accusation was more acceptable. And that answers (for the third time, I must point out) your question:

    How in heck do you get “So it’s alright with you that innocent people are falsely accused of horrific crimes, as long as they’re eventually cleared?” I’m mean really, if that isn’t a strawman, what is?

    It’s not a strawman; it’s an honest attempt to respond to my best understanding of your argument, based on the best context I had available to me… but ultimately confounded by the existence of unspoken assumptions about the original post.

    I don’t mean this as an attack (I promise!), but I honestly believe you’re the only one who thought this thread was about CAS-bashing in the first place.

    On another subject now:

    I disagree. Individuals in a Democratic Society are powerless. Groups of individuals however are not. The distinction is important.

    Group action is the synthesis of individual actions. (Note “synthesis” rather than “sum”… a key distinction, IMHO, between liberal and conservative worldviews.) A single individual may usually not be able to address social problems alone… but no social problem ever gets addressed absent the actions of individuals. When I go out and canvass for my favorite candidate, I may not be singly changing anything… but without me and all the others like me, nothing at all happens. (And BTW, in 2006 the candidate I worked for — Joe Courtney [D, CT-2] — won his seat in the House by just 83 votes, of which my wife and I were 2 and I personally drove 2 others to the polls… so don’t imagine individual actions don’t count.)

    Edmund Burke may not actually have said it, but even so, “[a]ll that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” is apt here.

    Finally, at the risk of annoying you, 2 pieces of advice:

    1. This really is a public forum; if you post here, be ready for anyone to reply, even if you meant your comment for a sepcific person.

    2. Ventilate your collar a bit: Disagreement, even when it’s based on a miscommunication, is not the same as someone trying to deny you your right to question things.

    G’night, now.

  217. #217 kpss
    June 20, 2008

    “My amazing psychic powers tell me you’re a gullible moron.”

  218. #218 negentropyeater
    June 20, 2008

    Bill,

    However, I don’t think PZ was criticizing CAS at all.

    Oh but I think he is, and rightfully so ! They are also included in this statement “the consequences of the erosion of critical thought”, why did they consider any degree of validity to what the psychic said ?

    Listen to this :

    “It is highly unusual, I will admit, to have a case called in based upon what a psychic might say,” concedes Sue Dale of the Simcoe County CAS.”

    Do you want to live in such a society, where government officials start investigations (even if they close them swiftly afterwards) on pure allegations from a psychic that have been told to a neighbour, or an ex lover, or an ex friend, or…

    I think PZ’s post is clear, “the erosion of critical thought” affects the whole chain of people involved in this affair, and that’s the problem, apart from the psychic of course, which isn’t a critical thought issue, but one of loonacy and disgusting irresponsibility.

  219. #219 MartinM
    June 20, 2008

    The story itself is enough to get people fired up. Doesn’t need any help with incorrect reporting. I’ll expect better of you in the future…

    Second, don’t presume to tell me how or what to write. If you can’t get the concept or refute the issue without getting all condesending and indignant, that’s your deficiency. Not mine.

    Sorry, did someone mention a misplaced moral superiority complex? Think I just found it.

  220. #220 AllanW
    June 20, 2008

    Tabby Lavalamp #193 ‘The “psychic” told a lie that caused distress and legal proceedings. Freedom of expression has legal limits, and I’d be interested to see if the scam artist crossed those limits in a court of law.’

    No, they didn’t. They made an unspecified (‘someone whose name begins with a ‘V”) comment. The distress was caused by the actions of the TA. Freedom of expression does have legal limits and they were not crossed by all accounts in this case. You may be interested to know that not even the TA has a case against the supposed psychic in Canada. Even in the UK where new laws have just been introduced to require purported psychics to display and reiterate disclaimers (this is an entertainment that has no scientific basis) the TA would still have no action as IT WAS HER ACTIVITY THAT CAUSED THE INVESTIGATION. My whole point really.

    Kevin Whitefoot #195 No, it’s not the same as yelling ‘Fire!’ in a cinema. Arbitrary and unspecific comments that are acted upon by others remain the accountable consequences of the PEOPLE WHO ACT not anyone else who may have said something that might have influenced it.

  221. #221 negentropyeater
    June 20, 2008

    IT WAS HER ACTIVITY THAT CAUSED THE INVESTIGATION

    That’s absolutely clear. You can’t fire the psychic. But if I were a parent from a child in that school, I’d ask for the dismissal from that educational assistant, what is she doing mixing her job with a psychic, what nonsense is this ? This is a grave professional error isn’t it ? What legal rescourse do parents have ?

  222. #222 Bill Dauphin
    June 20, 2008

    negentropyeater:

    However, I don’t think PZ was criticizing CAS at all.

    Oh but I think he is, and rightfully so !

    Oy! Thanks so much for muddying waters I worked so hard to clear! ;^)

    Try this version of my quoted sentence:

    However, I don’t think PZ was criticizing CAS‘s organizational competence in carrying out the investigation at all.

    I don’t claim to be able to read PZ’s mind, and he may well have CAS on his list of people and groups who should have bloody well known better than to listen to a psychic (although [a] he didn’t say so, [b] the quote you provide isn’t one he chose to reference, and [c] I’m guessing CAS has a legal obligation to investigate every claim they receive, once it’s gotten that far). But… PZ’s actual words do not contain the criticism Dagger apparently thought he was making, and that Dagger’s “correction” would have addressed: To wit, that CAS was running an open-ended (and by implication, abusive) investigation.

    I just don’t see anything in the text of PZ’s post (reverting to my lit-crit days here) that suggests that the duration of the CAS investigation was in any way material to his argument.

  223. #223 Nick Gotts
    June 20, 2008

    I draw to the attention of who_is_your_creator the official report commissioned by the UK government from a highly-respected psychologist, after a series of scandals involving false accusations of “Satanic ritual child abuse”, which had led to enormous damage and suffering both to the accused and to the children concerned:

    Prof. J.S. La Fontaine, [Great Britain] Department of Health, “Extent & Nature of Organized Ritual Abuse” ISBN 011 11 321797 8; 1994-May. Available from Unipub, 4611-F Assembly Drive, Lanham MD 20706, for $ 11.49.

    Prof. La Fontaine blames evangelical Christians opposed to “new religious movements” (among others) for the “Satanic abuse” panic in the UK.

  224. #224 tony (not a vegan)
    June 20, 2008

    negentropyeater@218 & on

    Oh but I think he is, and rightfully so ! They are also included in this statement “the consequences of the erosion of critical thought”, why did they consider any degree of validity to what the psychic said ?

    my emphasis

    CAS investigated because they are required to investigate.

    They, in common with similar service groups in the US, the UK, and other countries, have no discression in investigation. If a case is submitted via mandatory reporting, they have a mandatory obligation to investigate.

    In this case (as has been stated many times, here, elsewhere and in the article) the investigation was closed pretty quickly once the evidence was examined. This was not possible until the investigation was made since that evidence included the mother’s GPS/audio logs.

    CAS acted in the only way they were allowed.

    The failure here is in the initiation of mandatory reporting by the school, since at that point the reasonable grounds clause was not met.

  225. #225 tony (not a vegan)
    June 20, 2008

    oops – forgot an entire para…

    CAS did not consider the source. Only the school initiating the complaint considered the source. CAS were required to investigate the fact of the complaint, not the source of that complaint, once the complaint was made (by a mandatory reporter).

  226. #226 negentropyeater
    June 20, 2008

    Bill,

    I don’t claim to be able to read PZ’s mind, and he may well have CAS on his list of people and groups who should have bloody well known better than to listen to a psychic (although [a] he didn’t say so

    PZ wrote (correctly IMHO) :

    The government officials should not be harrassing Ms Leduc — rather, they ought to hunt down and fine the creepy scammer with the pathetic letter-guessing psychic fraud scheme.

    You are correct that PZ never criticized “CAS’s organizational competence in carrying out the investigation at all”.
    He criticized them for starting the investigation. And he’s bloody right.

  227. #227 negentropyeater
    June 20, 2008

    tony,

    I see, so CAS was obliged to investigate.

    But why did CAS not consider the source of the complaint ? Were they not supposed to ?

  228. #228 Bill Dauphin
    June 20, 2008
    PZ wrote (correctly IMHO) :

    The government officials should not be harrassing Ms Leduc

    Evidently you read that as meaning “The government officials should not be [choosing to harrass] Ms Leduc…”; I read it as “The government officials should not be [put in the position of] harrassing Ms Leduc….”

    Either way, it’s not (IMHO) the primary thrust of his argument, nor is it what Dagger was complaining about.

  229. #229 Dagger
    June 20, 2008

    A new day, a fresh cup of coffee, a good argument, what more could one ask for.

    Really enjoyed your post Bill.

    You seem to be under the impression that I believe the time the investigation took to complete is consequential. Your right, I do. I’m glad it was over quickly. Given the unfortunate reality that it was going to take place no matter what. That however is not the same as saying it shouldn’t have taken place to begin with, which in a critical thinking society wouldn’t have happened at all.

    Reasonable. That term has come up frequently in this case. What is reasonable? To anyone on here, reasonable probably does not include listening to the ravings of a lunatic psychic. I agree. However society in general has lent creedance to these nutjobs by employing them in Police investigations! Hiring a psychic to find a missing person or to help solve a murder? You see this crap on TV all the time. I mean seriously, you don’t have to look any further to find failures of critical thinking than your daily newspaper. Does yours still print horoscopes? Mine does.

    Okay back to the case worker in question. When the report came in, the details would have been sketchy at best. The alert would read that there is a potential child abuse case occuring as reported by this school. The report comes from one of their teaching assistants. Investigation open, with the source of the allegation being the TA in this case. That is reasonable based on the information available. It wouldn’t have been until later that it was determined that the information of the abuse was based (partially) on a psychic. As the investigation is already opened it must reach a conclusion. The case worker has no alternative at that point than to follow procedure, which includes interviewing the mother of the child. She did so. Determined quickly that it was baseless (I’m sure the mother appreciated that info) and closed the case.

    Should the case have been opened at all? Of course not, but based on the available data, it was a [i]reasonable[/i] request initially. So, the investigation was going to take place now no matter what. Better that is was over quickly then don’t you think?

    Harrasment of Ms. Leduc? Definitely not. Persuit of the creepy scammer with the letter-guessing psychic fraud scheme. Definitely. Education of the TA so that in the future she’ll have the ability to think critically before she speaks about such a contentious issue. Absolutely. Vital even.

    Critical thinkers are seldom born that way. They learn and grow from experience and asking questions. Those people calling for the TA to be fired, don’t you think that doing so would cause her to be lost in the deepening quagmire of irrational thought? Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to have her attend a manditory class with say, the local skeptic society? If we keep “throwing away” people who are stuck in the middle of the road we’ll soon find ourselves overwhelmed and it’s an uphill battle as it is.

  230. #230 Benjamin Franklin
    June 20, 2008

    My psychic advisor tells me that a male, aged 50-60 will fire someone whose last name begins with F and teaches creationism in Mount Vernon, Ohio.

    Now if I can only stop scratching my nuts.

  231. #231 Jud
    June 20, 2008

    Carlie (#197) wrote: …you really don’t need to start an anaphylactic reaction from that particular spot….

    Enormous swelling of “that particular spot” is bad?

  232. #232 windy
    June 20, 2008

    I wonder how “quickly” the case would have been closed if the mother had had a boyfriend and the psychic had happened to guess his age…

  233. #233 Kate
    June 20, 2008

    I see one point being missed here, which a friend of mine (who has done work for CAS as a caregiver for kids in crisis and as a respite care worker) brought up in a conversation we were having while driving to our local Tim Horton’s for coffee.

    It’s very lucky for this Mom that she had those GPS records and audio logs. Without that proof, the investigation would have inevitably gone forward, and although the eventual outcome would be the same as far as establishing that there was no abuse, the damage done to this family would have been much worse.

    It’s even luckier that she had a worker assigned to her case who had the common sense to look at ALL the evidence before they took her daughter from her care.

    All too often, employees of CAS remove children from the care of their parents before thorough investigations are completed, and at times before the investigation even starts.

    This is not to say that the employees of CAS are careless or heartless, or stupid. They do their jobs to the best of their ability, for the most part, most often doing what they believe, and know through their training, to be the best possible thing for the child’s safety and health.

    However, when complaints have been proved to be erroneous, the return of the child to the parent is not always the end of the nightmare. There is a stigma attached to being investigated for child abuse. No matter that the accusations were unfounded or made maliciously. The child suffers teasing from peers, overcautious inspection by school authorities, and the suspicion that the parent “Got lucky and got away with it.”

    Even when the child has not been removed from the home, the stigma of the investigation can mar family relations and friendships and cause neighbours to turn against one another.

    Accusations of abuse are serious. Whenever abuse is suspected for genuine reasons it should be reported. Immediately. However, if all you have for “evidence” is the non-specific ramblings of a deranged loon/con artist who bilks people out of their money with crap-ass parlour tricks, you need to shut your damn word hole. If you are unable to tell the difference between real and pretend, you need to keep your word-hole shut and stay the hell away from any position that might give you authority over anyone, especially children.

    If this Mom hadn’t had both the GPS logs and a rational human being as a case worker from CAS, this could have dragged on for months, or years until a full resolution was reached.

    One more thing: The teaching assistant should have to pay for the entire cost of the investigation, as I’m pretty sure that I am not alone in saying I think this was a huge waste of public funds. Let CAS bill her. We can start a new trend up here: Stupidity Tax. If you do something appallingly stupid that causes the government to waste tax dollars on your bullshit and you’re getting stuck with the bill.

    (It works for rescue services that get called out to rescue idiot “hikers/outdoorsmen” who ignore posted safety regulations and get themselves in trouble. Up here, if you’re stupid enough to do something idiotic that you’ve been warned against you’re stuck paying for the chopper that pulled you out, the searchers pay for the time they spent tramping through the forest, the planes that flew over the area for a few days looking for your sorry ass, as well as the triage care you receive on the way to whatever medical facility they drop you at. Seems fair to me!)

  234. #234 Carlie
    June 20, 2008

    Carlie (#197) wrote: …you really don’t need to start an anaphylactic reaction from that particular spot….

    Enormous swelling of “that particular spot” is bad?

    Well, from my experience epi injections are given in the exact location of the origin if it’s known, so as long as you don’t mind a few syringe pokes there as a side effect…

  235. #235 Shell Goddamnit
    June 22, 2008

    Blaidd Drwgg:
    @ PZ is Full of IT (#26) In the early 90′s at Brown University (I think) a women’s group posted fliers with men’s names, accusing them of being ‘potential rapists’. The men ‘featured’ in these fliers had never been accused of rape, had never been suspected. The basis for the accusation? They had penises!

    Man this sounds kind of let us say unlikely. Was the point that all men have at least the basic tools for rape? or was this one of the situations where date-rapists – so claimed by particular women from particular incidents – were being called out?

    The way you have phrased it the women were honestly accusing men of being unrealized rapists on the basis of having penises. I doubt the full extent of the unreasonableness you relate.

  236. #236 Azkyroth
    June 22, 2008

    Blaidd Drwgg:
    @ PZ is Full of IT (#26) In the early 90′s at Brown University (I think) a women’s group posted fliers with men’s names, accusing them of being ‘potential rapists’. The men ‘featured’ in these fliers had never been accused of rape, had never been suspected. The basis for the accusation? They had penises!

    Man this sounds kind of let us say unlikely. Was the point that all men have at least the basic tools for rape? or was this one of the situations where date-rapists – so claimed by particular women from particular incidents – were being called out?

    The way you have phrased it the women were honestly accusing men of being unrealized rapists on the basis of having penises. I doubt the full extent of the unreasonableness you relate.

    I’d be interested in seeing the source for this as well, but unfortunately this sort of stunt is hardly unheard of among a minority of those who adopt the label of “feminist.”

  237. #237 Azkyroth
    June 22, 2008

    And, here’s a source! (And here are a few more!)

    And, goshdarnit, it really does look like that group’s intention was to assert that all men are “potential rapists.”

  238. #238 cureholder
    June 22, 2008

    This was actually a fairly notorious event when it happened. If I recall, the men pictured on the “potential rapist” boards were randomly chosen from among the male population of the school. I also seem to recall that one of the victims of this defamation responded with a posted picturing the leaders of the feminist group and labeling them “Potential Prostitutes.”

  239. #239 Nick Gotts
    June 22, 2008

    cureholder@238 According to the link Azkyroth gives, the men were named (“some 4,500 identifiably male names culled from the student directory”), not pictured, and the actual wording was “Any of these Men May Have the Potential to Be Rapists”. Stupid and offensive, but very different from using mug shots. Interesting how these tales grow in the memory, isn’t it?

  240. #240 cureholder
    June 25, 2008

    Well, the difference between Askyroth’s link and mine stems less from the tale “growing in [my] memory” than from the fact that we are talking about different incidents. The one with the 4,500 names happened at the University of Maryland in 1993, while the one I wrote about happened at my own alma mater in 1991, while I was a student there. My “If I recall” referred only to my uncertainty whether the perpetrators chose the men at random or by some other method. I do remember that they took polaroid photos (god, remember THOSE?) of the men on campus and compiled them into a poster. (Presumably because of space limitations, there were only about a dozen victims on their poster, compared to the thousands of names on the U. Maryland one.)

    Another difference is that the flyer I saw (and still have in a box somewhere, I would imagine) was that the U. Maryland flyer said only that the men “may” have the potential to be rapists, while the 1991 flyer boldly proclaimed “These Men Are Potential Rapists!!!!’ (with the several question marks). The vociferous accusation was another factor that led me to believe the selection was not random, although I believe the women involved claimed it was. When you’re dealing with hysteria, it’s hard to believe even the stated motives of the perpetrators.

  241. #241 Nick Gotts
    June 25, 2008

    cureholder@240 I don’t see your link. Or are you recounting this purely from memory? If so, I’m not saying it didn’t happen just as you say, but I’m afraid I have too little trust in human memory to just accept it on that basis.